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eJosEPMiiNE E.Butler 






OF dilston;" etc. 

(Third Edition). 






W. & J. Mackay & Co., "Observer" Works. 





When the first edition of "Catharine of Siena" appeared, 
Mr. Gladstone wrote as follows to Canon Butler : — 

" / received Mrs. Butler's kind gift yesterday morning and 
spent some time in reading the first three chapters with intense 
interest. It is evident that she is on the level of lier subject, 
and it is a very high level. To say this is virtually saying all. 
Her reply (by anticipation) to tlwse who scoff doum the visions 
is, I think, admirable. It is interesting to divine the veins of 
sympathy which may have guided Mrs. Butler in the choice 
of Iter subject, o o o o 

?Fith many thanks, 

Most faithfully yours, 

W. K Gladstone. 

October l^ih, 1878. 

Digitized by tine Internet Arcliive 

in 2007 witli funding from 

IVIicrosoft Corporation 



There have been more than forty lives written of Catharine 
of Siena — in Latin, Italian, French, German, Dutch and 

Until recently her life and character have been very little 
known in England. 

The principal chroniclers or historians who have been 
consulted in the following record are : — Malavolti, " Historia 
di Siena;" Tomad, "Historia di Siena;" Muraiori, "Annali 
dTtalia;" Villani, "Istorie;" Machiavelli, " Istorie Fioren ; " 
and Sismondi, " Histoire des Republiques Italiennes." 

The most interesting details, however, of Catharine's 
inner life and active labours are drawn from the " Acta 
Sanctorum " and the annals kept by her friend, confessor, 
and companion in labours, Raimondo of Capua. 

It is desired, by the publication of a less expensive edition 
of this book, which is continuously asked for, to place it 
more within the reach of persons who have hitherto only 
been able to obtain it from circulating libraries. 

Catharine of Siena. 


In order to be able to realize with greater clearness the 
character and career of the woman whom I desire to 
make better known among us in England, it is desirable 
to give some brief account of the principal events of 
the time in which she lived, and on some of which she 
exercised so great a moral influence. 

Siena is situated in the undulating plains of Southern 
Tuscany, south of Florence, and between the Apennines 
and the sea. 

This city is in many respects unique. The number of 
its inhabitants was about^ 200,000 in the fourteenth cen- 
tury, when it ranked as the rival of Florence among 
the Italian Republics. Its population has slowly and 
gradually diminished since that time, and the city has 
not spread out one foot beyond its ancient walls. Its 
streets are narrow and steep ; so steep in some cases 
that no carriage can ascend them, and sometimes re- 
sembling irregular stone staircases rather than streets. 
It had originally thirty-nine gates, of which all but nine 

^ Sismondi, " History of the Italian Republics." 

2 - Cathaiine of Siena. 

are now closed. The city stands on the top of a hill 
of tertiary sandstone, and commands an extensive view. 
The citadel stands apart on the summit of another hill of 
the same range, with a small grassy valley dividing them. 

The following sketch, written by an English lady in a 
letter to a friend in the winter of 1877, may give some 
idea to those who have not visited Siena of the scenery 
around the city : — 

"Leaving the long narrow winding streets, we passed 
through one of the great gateways, and came direct out 
into the open country, where there are no straggling 
houses nor suburb of any kind. There is a wonderful 
charm about this sudden transition. The town stands on 
a hill, so that the country roads all lead up to its nine 
gates. One could imagine oneself in Palestine, near the 
' city set upon an hill,' with the outer slopes covered with 
olive trees. 

'* The graceful, tender landscape stretches far away be- 
fore you ; hills crowned with ancient castles ; the soil of 
a beautiful auburn or burnt-siena tint, and copses of 
oak, still covered with their russet autumn leaves. We 
went upon the ramparts of the citadel, upon which there 
are paths with tender green grass. There was a splendid 
winter sunset. Looking across the landscape, I could 
count nine or ten beautiful undulating lines, each like 
a horizon line, but always with one beyond it, and one 
beyond that again, and each distinguished from the one 
before it by showing fainter and fainter through a light 
haze, till the scene ended at last in a pale line of 
snow mountains. The shades were too delicate for any 
painter to have caught, and the haze only veiled without 

Aspect of the Country around Siena. 3 

hiding the soft purples and mauves ; while the visions 
of castles, convents, and campaniles varied and gave life 
to the undulating lines of each ridge. 

"This part of Tuscany is sometimes described by 
travellers as desolate and bare ; but I confess that I love 
the look of the country round Siena. There is something 
tender and warm and homelike in it. Certainly one may 
admire more the richer and grander features of other 
parts of Italy, but this country attracts me more as 
country to live in. One feels possessed by a wish to 
explore it, to visit the villas and castles which crown the 
tops of the low hills, to find out where every path leads 
to, and to ride about the tempting roads, which are open, 
with hedges studded with oaks as in England. The 
landscape is probably more tender and dreamlike in winter 
than in the glare of the summer light, when it appears 
more flat and uniform, and when you do not see one range 
of wave-like hills beyond another, as indicated by the lines 
of haze in autumn or winter. 

" Down at our feet, as we looked from the ramparts, 
there were wooded valleys falling away from the city 
walls, before rising again into the opposite ridges, and 
close at our side was Siena itself, crowning the hill, all its 
towers and walls bathed on one side with the red glow 
of the winter sunset, and on the other in cobalt blue 
shade. There were sweet winding lanes with the long 
evening shadows cast across them, ascending the ridges, 
and then often following along the backbones of the little 
hills ; many old fortified houses with olive-yards and 
cypresses around them, and sometimes even green lawns 
with sheep feeding — an uncommon sight in Italy. 


4 Cathanne of Siena. 

" The people appear to live scattered about the country 
in single villas or castles, and not wedged into villages com- 
posed of a crowded street of tall houses, as is so common in 
Italy. These are signs of a very old-established civilization. 

" Although the city itself is nothing in importance 
compared with what it once was, it is not ruinous or 
dilapidated. Everyone knows that it is in Siena that the 
purest Italian is spoken. The people are very proud of 
their fine old city and their past history. It offends them 
to say that this or that is like Florence, for they consider 
that Siena stands in the front rank among Italian cities. 

" A little valley lies between the ancient city and a low 
hill to the west, on which stands the great church of St. 
Dominic. In this depression there was formerly the old 
district inhabited by the poor people of Siena, and known 
as the Contrada d'Oca. This was the birthplace of 
Catharine. Her father's house still stands there, also 
his workshop, and the chapel which was erected to her 
memory, over the door of which are written in letters 
of gold the words ' Spos* Christi Katharinse domus.' We 
visited the house and cell of Catharine, and saw the rough, 
stone on the floor, which they say served her as a pillow, 
and the little lantern which she carried in her hospital 
visits during the plague." 

The American translator of Father Raymond's " Life 
of St. Catharine " says : — *' When going from Rome to- 
Siena, as one descends the rough declivities of the Radi- 
cofani, the lines graduall}"- soften on the horizon, and 
plantations of olive trees in graceful rows adorn the 
hill sides. The valleys present a high state of cultiva- 
tion and broad streamlets murmur beneath shady foliage. 

Ilaly in the Fourteenth Century. 5 

Chateaux of the middle ages, with farm-houses of pic- 
turesque architecture, animate the landscape, and as one 
advances on this road, festooned by luxuriant vines, nature 
appears milder and more gay. One could fancy one heard 
the distant strains of a concert, whose chords sound louder 
as one approaches the city which presents little of the 
agitation and feverish life of our modern cities. The 
Italian language is more melodious here than elsewhere, and 
the population offers types of a beauty distinctly its own." 

Sismondi, in his " History of the Italian Republics," 
mentions the high estimation in which Catherine of Siena 
was held throughout Italy, during and after her life. 
In his history also we have a vivid picture of the troubles 
of Italy during the period in which she lived. 

The revival of Greek and Roman literature, the forma- 
tion of the Italian language, and the creation of modern 
poetry, the perfecting of jurisprudence, and the rapid 
progress made in painting and sculpture, architecture and 
music, are due in a great degree to the men of the 
fourteenth century ; yet that period was far from being 
a happy one for humanity. Many of the old-fashioned 
virtues had disappeared, and revolting vices prevailed, 
especially in the courts and palaces of princes, both lay 
and ecclesiastical. Base intrigues were the order of the 
day, and the only recognized means of earthly success. 
The aristocracy set an example of every crime, and the 
grossest debauchery reigned in their palaces and castles. 
Poison and the knife were daily resorted to in the struggle 
to hold their own against rivals. Troops of assassins were 
retained in their pay, and a complete protection was 
granted to brigands in return for the services they rcn- 

6 Cathanne of Siena. 

dered their lordly employers. Magistrates were corrupt, 
and justice sold. Princes derived revenue out of the pun- 
ishment of criminals. Confessions were exlorted by the 
rack from suspected persons, and criminals were punishe<i 
with indescribable torture. In politics, frequent treachery 
destroyed all confidence in treaties and all friendly security 
among citizens. In war, foreign mercenaries sold them- 
selves to him who paid the highest, and in their marches 
ruthlessly outraged the innocent inhabitants of the country, 
and ruined their agriculture. The contempt in which 
princes and nobles held all law and morality had an 
influence all the more pervading, because in every city 
of Italy at that time there reigned a little court, and this 
little court was for the citizens of each city a school of 
vice and crime. The several Republics of Italy were at 
continual war with the great dukes and princes who lived 
around or in the midst of them, and who, strong in the 
traditions of their former absolute and despotic sove- 
reignty, looked with an evil eye on the independent 
spirit of the Eepublics. This independent spirit mani- 
fested itself in constantly renewed struggles to cast off the 
yoke, first of one tyrant, and then of another ; at one time 
of some aggressive noble, at another of a foreign invader ; 
now of the insolent emissaries of the Pope, claiming with 
the sword and excommunication the restoration of the 
revolted temporal estates of the Church, and now of an 
arrogant oligarchy in their midst, developed from the 
elected rulers of the people themselves. 

No sight could have been more sad, more indecent, it 
may be said, for a Christian soul to contemplate than the 
sight which the Christian Church then presented in the 

Italy in the Fourteenth Century. 7 

persons of its prominent representatives. It was that of a ' 
worldly, greedy, grasping power, a power which had lost its 
influence for good over the conscience of Christendom, and 
had thrown itself into the fierce conflict of arms and of intri- 
gue with all who disputed its claims to a despotic material 
sovereignty. The Pope Clement V. had removed the seat of 
the Papacy to Avignon, in 1305. Six popes after him con- 
tinued to live in this voluntary exile, far from their duties 
and their people. They purchased from Joanna, Queen of 
Naples and Countess of Provence, the sovereignty of Avig- 
non, with vast surrounding estates in that fair and sunny 
province of southern France. There they established 
themselves as though they never meant to return. Mag- 
nificent palaces and castles were built by them. The 
College of Cardinals came to be almost entirely com- 
posed of Frenchmen. Urban V. and Gregory XL werel 
French, and strongly attached to their native land. Thai 
French king used all his influence to retain the Papal 
Court in his kingdom, and the prelates were only too 
ready to yield to this influence, preferring a residence 
among a people in whom no restless desire of liberty or 
turbulent spirit of reform disturbed their tranquillity, or 
interrupted the gay and easy tenour of the Court life of 
Avignon. This period was compared by Italian writers 
to the Babylonish captivity. The voluntary exile of the 
Pope, and his neglect of the interests of his subjects, had 
a most melancholy influence upon the faith, the morals and 
the politics of the Church. The corruption of the prelates, 
the dishonourable and scandalous lives of the young car- 
dinals, and the universal licence of the city were so notorious 
to all Europe that Avignon received the name of the 

8 Catharine of Siena. 

Western Babj'lon.i This epithet is found in the bitter 
invectives of Petrarch, and in the writings of all the most 
religious men of that time. Avignon gathered to itself 
the scum of the French and Italian populations, and 
intriguers and adventurers of all nations flocked thither. 
" The morals of Avignon," it was said, " are what are called 
vices in other nations." In the preceding century the Court 
of Eome had been sufficiently ambitious, avaricious, and 
dissimulating; but during its^establishment at Avignon it 
became more and more venal and perfidious in its adminis- 
tration, while the Italians marked with disgust its ever- 
increasing servility to the Court of France.^ The Sovereign 
Pontiff gradually lost the affections of the Italian people. 
He treated Italy as a mere dependency, making over the 
management of the estates of the Church to agents who 
became a plague and a curse to the people. These agents 
were the infamous Cardinal Legates, whose rapacity and 
cruelty exceeded even those of the ambitious families under 
whom Italy already had suffered more than she could bear. 
The conduct of these Legates continually brought the 
Papacy into worse and worse repute among the Italians. 
Lnder the plea of gathering in the revenue of the Church, 
they plundered the people, and, to enrich themselves, cheated 
the absent Pontiff of that which he too often exacted with 
harshness and injustice. 

Another grief which pressed heavily on Italy at that 
time was the presence of the hosts of foreign mercenary 
troops to which I have already referred. These troops 
were chiefly composed of English and Bretons, who had 

^ Sismondi's "Italian Republics," Vol. vii. ^ Ibid. 

lUdij in the Fourteenth Century. 9 

taken part in the long war between England and France, 
and who had been driven from their own countries as de- 
moralized military refuse, and unfit to return to the duties 
of citizenship. There were also Germans, and malcontents 
of all countries, who travelled over the Alps to sell their 
services to piinces or republics to whom the offer of their 
alliance was itself a calamity j^ for, after a victory won 
by their aid, those who had themselves accepted these 
dangerous auxiliaries found themselves vanquished in their 
turn. It was impossible to get rid of these mercenaries ; they 
remained, and lived at the expense of the country ; they 
sometimes retired to the strong castles of the Apennines, 
whence they periodically emerged, swooping down like birds 
of prey upon the country populations, pillaging and ravaging 
and carrying terror Avherever they appeared. The fierce 
English brigand, John Hawkwood, led an immense English 
and Breton troop into Italy. He sold himself and his 
followers first to the Pope and afterwards to the Florentine 
Republic ; performing, in the interval, some well-paid 
services for the Visconti and other fighting princes. He 
became the chief of that great "school of Italian condot- 
tieri" which warred in Italy for two centuries. His troops 
were accustomed to encamp disbanded and without order ; 
they always fought on foot, carrying great lances such as 
were used in boar hunting, and advanced on the enemy in 
closely seried ranks, howling in their uncouth foreign 
tongues, the harsh sound of which was most terrible to the 
Italians. Catharine of Siena was several times stopped on 
her journeys and missions with her companions by the sound 

' " Economie Politique du Moyen Age." 

10 Catharine of Siena. 

of the approach of these dreaded brigands. Tliis happened 
on her journey to Florence, where she had been invited 
to act as a pacificator between that Eepublic and the 
Pope ; she was obliged to turn out of her path till the 
danger had passed. One of her most eloquent letters is 
addressed to John Hawkwood (or Giovanni Augud as the 
Italian chroniclers write him). Hawkwood was, however, 
outdone in cruelty by the Papal Legate whom he served 
at the destruction and massacre of Cesena and Faenza, in 
1377. Several of the northern ItaHan cities had entered 
into a league against the Pope, and for the defence of 
their liberties. The Pope sent his Legate, Cardinal Robert 
of Geneva, with an army to break up this league, if possible. 
Cardinal Eobert drove a hard bargain with Hawkwood for 
his services in this campaign, and commenced proceedings 
hy endeavouring to detach Bologna from the league. He 
promised the Bolognese " the pardon of their faults if they 
would acknowledge the sovereignty of the Church and of 
the Pope's ministers." The Bolognese replied : " We are 
ready to suffer all things rather than again to submit our- 
selves to the rulers whose luxury, insolence, and avarice 
we have so cruelly experienced." Cardinal Robert, on 
receiving this reply from the ambassadors of Bologna, sent 
back word : " Tell them that I shall not leave Bologna 
till I have washed my hands and my feet in their blood." 
The Legate's actions were worthy of his threat ; he slew, 
burnt, and plundered. The summer being past, he found 
himself in need of winter quarters, and obliged the city of 
Cesena, which had not revolted or joined the league, to 
receive his troops. His barbarous soldiers, incapable of 
discipline, began to treat this city as one which they had 

The Massacre of Cesena. 11 

taken in battle, forcing open the houses, robbing property, 
and carrying off the daughters of the citizens for outrage 
and captivity. The inhabitants endured patiently for 
several weeks, but on the night of February 1, 1377, they 
made a sudden attack upon the mercenaries, and drove 
them out of the city. Cardinal Robert, on receiving this 
news, sent a deceitful message to the people of Cesena, 
confessing that his soldiers had deserved this punishment, 
and promising a complete amnesty on condition that they 
would again open their gates to him. They opened their 
gates ; and the perfidious Cardinal entering, ordered a 
universal massacre. He sent for Hawkwood, who was 
at that moment doing the Cardinal's work at Faenza. 
Hawkwood hesitated for a moment to execute this horrible 
deed ; the Cardinal, persuading, taunting, and bribing, 
urged him on to the massacre, crying out, " I want blood, 
blood, blood ! " None were spared, neither the aged nor 
the young ; mothers, maidens, and infants at the breast 
were murdered and flung in heaps in the streets. From 
morning till night the slaughter continued. The Cardinal 
stood all day as the presiding genius of the scene, a crucifix 
held aloft in one hand, and a sword in the other, reiterat- 
ing, " Kill them, kill them ! all, all ! " and resting not until 
the last of the five thousand of the peaceful inhabitants of 
Cesena was slain. This Cardinal Robert was the man who 
was afterwards, in 1378, elected Pope as Clement VII., the 
rival of Urban VI. 

It was Catharine the wool-dyer's daughter who first 
dared to address to the Pope at Avignon letters full of 
severe truth, setting forth to him the miseries of his 
Italian subjects, the evils of his non-residence, and the 

12 Catharine of Siena. 

gross cruelty of his unworthy legates ; it was she who pre- 
vailed in her endeavour to bring back the Sovereign Pontiff" 
to his country, and to awaken him to a sense of his respon- 
sibilities towards his torn and distracted flock. 

"Catharine of Siena," says her biographer Eaymond, 
" was to the fourteenth century what St. Bernard was to 
the twelfth, that is, the light and support of the Church. 
At the moment when the bark of St. Peter was most 
strongly agitated by the tempest, God gave it for pilot a 
poor young girl who was concealing herself in the little shop 
of a dyer. Catharine travelled to France to lead the Pontiff 
Gregory XI. away from the delights of his native land ; she 
brought back the Popes to Kome, the real centre of Chris- 
tianity. She addressed herself to cardinals, princes, and 
kings. Her zeal inflamed at the sight of the disorders 
which prevailed in the Church, she exerted all her activity 
in order to overcome them ; she negotiated between the 
nations and the Holy See; she brought back to God a 
multitude of souls, and communicated, by her teaching and 
example, a new vitality to those great religious orders which 
were the life and pulse of the Church." " When she entered 
the world (after years spent in prayer and fasting), it was 
to preach to infuriated mobs, to toil among plague-stricken 
men, to execute diplomatic negotiations, to harangue the 
Republic of Florence, to correspond with queens, and to 
interfere between kings and popes. . . . It is well 
known how, by the power of her eloquence and the 
ardour of her piet}', she succeeded as a mediator between 
Florence and her native city, and between Florence and 
the Pope ; that she travelled to Avignon and induced 
Gregory XI. to return to Rome, that she narrowly 

The Corruptions of the Church. 13" 

escaped political martyrdom during one of her embassies 
from Gregory to the Florentine Republic, that she preached 
a crusade against the Turks, and that she aided by her 
dying words to keep Pope Urban VI. on the papal 
throne."^ We shall see how, like St. Francis, St. Bernard, 
and Savonarola, Catharine, though a devoted daughter of 
the Church, became its faithful and fearless monitoi-, and a 
prophet to it of warning and rebuke. Appalled by the 
knowledge which she rapidly attained of the hollowness, 
hypocris}', and abominable vices which prevailed among 
the clergy of all ranks, she shrunk not from open denun- 
ciation of their evil deeds ; she rebuked the evil-doers,^ 
whether princes, cardinals, or the " Holy Father " him- 
self, with the severity of one who has a commission from 
Heaven, and with the passionate pleading and tenderness 
of a woman whose soul is filled with Christian love and 
pity for her kind. The Eoman Church had not yet filled 
up the measure of her sins; the time had not yet come for 
the grand defection from her ranks of the bold spirits of a 
Luther and a Calvin. But through all the centuries, fronx 
the time when the supreme bishops of Eome ceased to be 
what they were in the earliest period — saints and martyrs^ 
men of virtue and of humble piety — there never was 
wanting a succession of prophets, who rose up one by 
one, to repudiate in the name of Christ and in the face 
of the world, the corruptions, follies, and crimes com 
mitted in the name and by the authority of the professed 
ministers of Christ's religion, the ecclesiastical rulers who- 
had become, in fact, the ministers of injustice and op- 

^ " Siena and St. Catharine," by J. Symonds. 

14 Catharine of Siena. 

pression. That the spiritual life was not extinct, however, 
in those corrupt times, and that pure teaching and a Christ- 
like life were recognized and ardently loved far and wide 
by the nations, is proved by the ascendency which these 
prophet-like beings (and none more than Catharine) gained 
over the affections of the people, by the reverence and awe 
which they inspired even in the worldly courts of princes, 
by the fact that even the pride of haughty ecclesiastics 
bowed before them, by the recognition given to them by 
the Church herself, and by the loving devotion with which 
their names and memories continued to be cherished long 
after their death. 

While Italy was thus shaken by the moral and political 
■disorders above described, a terrible scourge visited her, in 
common with the other nations of Europe. The plague, 
which appeared in 1348, and again in 1361 and 1374, has 
been described by Boccaccio and other writers. A suc- 
cession of extraordinarily rainy seasons was succeeded by 
famine in 1345 and 1347. The plague followed. Terror 
seized the inhabitants of every town and village where the 
first symptoms of the disease appeared ; the contagion 
spread with unheard-of rapidity ; even to converse with one 
smitten was often fatal, -wathout touching him ; men and 
women, and even cattle, fell dead in the streets; nature's 
wild scavengers, the wolf and the vulture, would not come 
near the tainted dead ; large ditches were prepared, into 
which the bodies were hurled, so long as anyone could be 
found to convey them thither. The utmost of human 
egotism and selfishness were manifested side by side with 
noble examples of courage and devotion. An impression pre- 
vailed that sadness or lowness of spirits predisposed persons 

TJie Plague in Italy. 15 

to take the disease, and consequently wild laughter and jest- 
ing, gambling and revelling, were heard and seen in the midst 
of dying agonies and hurried funeral obsequies ; all business 
was neglected, and the population seemed like a vast crowd 
awaiting certain death, in very various and strongly con- 
trasted attitudes of mind. In Florence three out of every 
five persons died, as affirmed by Boccaccio. At Siena, in 
the months of May, June, July, and August, 1348, the 
plague carried off 30,000 persons. In the later visitations 
of this scourge, Catharine appears as the guardian angel of 
her own city, and the devoted helper of the stricken and 
dying, forsaken often by their nearest relatives. So great 
was the terror of the nobles at the first sight of the second 
approach of the dreaded scourge, that many of them fled to 
the mountains and forests. The famous Bernabos Visconti, 
the powerful Duke of Milan, unable to pursue his favourite 
occupation of war, the plague having sounded a truce for a 
season to the fratricidal shedding of blood, betook himself 
to desperate hunting. " In the pursuit of this amusement, 
he contrived to perpetrate infinite cruelties, a task, by- 
the-bye, to him always familiar. Under pain of death, 
he forbade anyone to slay a hare, a wild hog, or any 
other game ; and this wicked law he scrupulously carried 
out, applying it even to those who within four years pre- 
viously had either killed or eaten of the game. He 
kept 5.000 hunting dogs, which he caused to be dis 
tributed among the country people, who had orders to 
feed them well, and to bring them once a month to be 
reviewed in a certain place. Woe to him whose charge 
was found to be lean or out of condition ! Still greater 
woe to him who had lost a dog by death ! These were 

16 Cathaiine of Siena. 

punished by the confiscation of all their goods, by torture 
and other penalties. More feared were the dog-keepers of 
Bernabos than the princes of the earth. At the sight and 
sound of these and other tyrannies of this inhuman prince 
everyone trembled, and no one dared to whisper. Two 
friars ventured one day to expostulate with him, and he 
immediately had them burnt to death." ^ The excitement 
of the chase prevailed for a time to quiet his fears, but 
the reports of a tyranny more irresistible than his own 
pursued Bernabos. Even while following the wolves of the 
Apennines with his well-fed hounds in full cry, he would 
come suddenly upon an untenanted hut, in which, on 
entering with some imperious demand, he would find the 
blackened corpse of the owner slain by the plague. Villani 
and Muratori both speak of the extraordinary terror of 
Bernabos when he realized that death was at his heels 
Sismondi records that " so great was the fright of the Prince 
Bernabos Visconti that he shut himself into his castle of 
Marignano ; and, determined that no one should come near 
him, he gave orders to the bell-ringer on his watch-tower to 
sound the bell the moment he saw anyone enter the territory 
around the castle. One day Bernabos perceived some 
gentlemen afar off approaching on the road from Milan, and 
yet no warning bell had sounded. Indignant, he gave the 
order to punish the bell-ringer for his negligence by pitching 
him headlong from his own bell-tower : his servants hastened 
up the tower to execute the order, and found the bell- 
ringer, dead of the plague, beside his bell. The fright 
of Bernabos was intensified by this circumstance ; he fled 

* Muratori. 

Great Pilgrimage tti Rome. 17 

further, to a hunting-tower which he possessed in the 
middle of wild forests, surrounding himself with a barri- 
cade at a mile's distance from the tower, on which barricade 
he caused to be placed a number of notices, threatening 
with instant death anyone who dared to cross that barrier. 
He survived the plague. At the same time, Catharine, 
full of faith in God, was passing incessantly, night and day, 
through the streets and hospitals of Siena, and comforting 
with peaceful words, and kindly, smiling face the terror- 
stricken and the dying. She also survived the plague. la 
the one we see the triumph of selfishness, in the other the- 
triumph of faith. 

In several of the nations of Europe a strong religious' 
awakening succeeded the devastations of the plague. 
Multitudes of people humbled themselves before God,, 
seeking to learn wisdom from the chastisement which he- 
had suffered to visit the earth. This penitent desire for 
reconciliation with God found expression in the under- 
taking of a vast pilgrimage to Eome, in order to receive 
there the pardon and blessing which the Pope had offered 
to all who should undertake this pilgrimage. 

In the winter and spring of 1350 a ceaseless stream of 
pilgrims poured iiito Italy from all parts of Europe. They 
bore with unmurmuring patience the rigours of a very 
severe season, toiling on through ice and snow, piercing 
blasts, and violent rains, which had destroyed many of the 
roads. All the inns and other houses on or near the high- 
ways being crowded by the first bands of pilgrims which 
arrived, others — chiefly those from Germany and Hungary 
— were compelled to camp out at night in large companies 
on the highways.. Thoy lit fires in the open air, and sat 


18 Catharine of Siena. 

closely crowded together, the better to resist the cold. 
Historians of the time declare that these pious wanderers, 
conscience-stricken, humble, and fervently desiring salva- 
tion, set an example of Christian virtue to all. No disputes 
or divisions arose among them, nor were they ever heard 
to murmur at the hardships they endured. The inn- 
keepers of the hostels where they crowded, unable to 
check any dishonesty or even to receive the payment due 
from each, owing to their great numbers, gave up the 
attempt ; but never, it was said, was any pilgrim seen to 
depart without leaving on the table the money which he 
owed for his food. They sang litanies and hymns, offered up 
daily prayers on the road, without ostentation, yet with a 
humble disregard of any scorn or opposition they met with. 
In general their conduct inspired with awe and reverence 
the people of the country through which they passed. 
Several millions of penitents thus made the journey to 
Rome without any disorders or scandal arising in the 
midst of the vast multitude.^ 

Such were some of the events of the age and country in 
which Catharine of Siena lived and laboured. 

1 Villaui, Vol. i., Chap. Ivi. 


GlACOMO Benincasa, the father of Catharine, was a dyer ; 
his occupation was chiefly the preparation of colours era- 
ployed in dyeing wool; hence his surname of Fullone, or 
dyer, and hence the name generally given to his and 
Catharine's abode, " The FuUonica." This house was 
situated, as I have said, in the humble quarter of the 
common people, in the Contrada d'Oca. His wife Lapa 
was simple, strong, and virtuous ; Giacomo himself being, 
according to the testimony of all the contemporary bio- 
graphers of Catharine, a loyal man, fearing God, and 
separated from every vice. 

There was, without doubt, a decline throughout Italy 
of the stern virtues and simplicity of life of the previous 
century; yet in some cities, and pre-eminently in Siena, 
these stern traditions lingered on for several centuries, 
and at the time of which I write there were many families 
of the Italian Republics who maintained the primitive purity 
of their ancestors, and continued to worship God with the 
same honesty of conviction. Dante describes the simple 
life of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries in the words 
which he places in the mouth of Cacciaguida, his ancestor : — 


20 Catharine of Siena. 

"I saw Bellincion Bertiwalk abroad 
With leather girdle and a clasp of bone ; 
And with no artful colour on her cheeks 
His lady leave the glass. The sons I saw 
Of Nerli and of Vecchio, well content 
With unrobed jerkin ; and their good dames handling 
The spindle and the flax. Oh ! happy they ! . . . 
In such composed and simple fellowship, 
Such faithful and such fair equality, 
In such sweet household, Mary at my birth 
Bestowed me." 

Villani, the historian of Italy, observes that in the 
thirteenth and the beginning of the fourteenth century the 
Italian republicans lived soberly, on coarse viands and at 
little cost. " The men and women dressed in coarse cloths ; 
many wore plain leather, and the Tuscan women were with- 
out ornament. Their manners were simple, and in many 
customs and courtesies of life they were rude and un- 
polished; but they were of good faith and loyal both among 
themselves and to the State, and with their coarse way of 
living and poverty they did greater and more virtuous deeds 
than have been done in our times and with greater refine- 
ment and wealth. "1 The virile character of the people of 
Siena was celebrated by Boccaccio and other contemporaries 
of Catharine. Nicholas Tommaseo of Milan, who wiote in 
1860 on "The Spirit and the Works of St. Catharine," 
remarks on the strong and manly character of her mind : 
" This citizen of an august Republic," he says, " was born 
in the midst of a turbulent, restless, and warlike people, 
a people nourished in severe customs, and who, whatever 
their faults, were in no sense enervated or feeble." Accord- 

^ Villani, Book vi., Chap. Ixxi. 

IVie Family of Catharine. 21 

ing to Sismondi, the Sienese were esteemed the proudest of 
all the Italian people. The parents of Catharine manifestly 
belonged to the generation then passing away ; they were 
simple, virtuous, and inured to hardship and eflfort. Al- 
though of a humble class in life ihoy won for themselves 
a certain position among their fellow-citizens. Lapa de- 
scribed the character of her husband to one of the con- 
temporaries of Cathaiine in the following words : " He was 
so mild and moderate in his words that he never gave way 
to anger, although he had many occasions for doing so ; and 
on seeing any of his household excited or vexed he would 
calm them by saying, 'Now, now, do not say anything 
which is not just or kind, and God will give you Hs bles- 
sing. He was greatly injured on one occasion by a fellow- 
citizen who had robbed him of money and who employed 
falsehood and calumny in order to ruin his character and 
the business he carried on. He never would hear his 
enemy spoken of harshly, and when I, thinking no harm 
of it, used to express my anger against my husband's 
detractor, he would say, ' Let him alone, dear, let him 
alone, and God will bless you. God will show him his 
error, and will be our defence.' This soon came true, for 
our enemy acknowledged openly his error." The neigh- 
bours of Giacomo also testified to his uprightness and virtue. 
He was pure and reserved in his speech ; consequently 
his family grew up sensitive to any coarseness or unseemli- 
ness in conversation. One of his daughters, Bonaventura, 
married a young man of Siena who sometimes received 
in his house foolish and vain companions. Bonaventura 
became so depressed by the tone of the conversation around 
her that she fell ill. Her husband inquiring the cause 

22 Cathaiine of Siena. 

of her illness, she replied, " I have never been accustomed 
to hear in the house of my father language such as I hear 
in yours. My education has been widely different, and I 
assure you that if such conversation continues around me 
it will be the cause of my death." Her reply inspired her 
husband with great respect for her and her family. He 
forbade his guests to speak one word in his house which 
could displease her. They obeyed, and thus the good 
government in the family of Giacomo rebuked the licence 
in the house of his son-in-law. 

Giacomo and Lapa had twenty-five children ; Catharine 
was one of two delicate little twins born in 1347. Little 
Jane, the twin sister of Catharine, died in a few days. 
" She winged her way to heaven," leaving Catharine on 
earth to become the mother of many souls. The stories 
told of our little saint to Raymond, her biographer, by 
admiring friends and neighbours of the Benincasa family, 
are full of naivete and grace, and abound in miraculous 
incidents which I shall pass over very briefly. Beyond all 
doubt the child was the darling of her neighbourhood from 
her earliest infancy, as she was the beloved of her country 
in her later years. 

As soon as she could walk, we are told, she contracted 
a habit of wandering from home ; a habit which developed 
in her maturer age, and which became the subject of 
many outward criticisms and of some inward question- 
ings of her own heart. The little vagrant was so beloved, 
and her childish prattle was "so discreet and so full of 
grace," that her mother with difficulty kept her at home, 
and sometiriies took alarm when the repeated announce- 
ment was made in the large family, that "The baby is 

Her Childhood. 23 

lost again." Before she could even speak plainly, we are 
assured that " the people of the Contrada d'Oca found such 
consolation and sweetness in her society that she received 
the name of Euphrosyne, which means joy or satisfaction." 
" As soon as one conversed with her," says Raymond, 
"sadness was dispelled from the heart, vexations and 
troubles were forgotten, and a ravishing peace took posses- 
sion of the soul." Her smile, of which we hear so often 
throughout her life, was so bright and sweet that it " took 
souls captive." She smiled with her eyes as well as her 
lips, and her friends speak of an " ineffable joy which shone 
in her eyes." She possessed all her life a frankness of 
manner which disarmed all prejudice and dispelled resen^es 
and fears : her nature was open and joyous, and her spirit 
truthful and clear as the day. She loved every living 
thing. Nature, beasts, birds, and flowers were very dear 
to her. Every man, woman, and child was to her a friend, 
a dear fellow-creature to be greeted without reserve, to be 
comforted, consoled, congratulated, pleaded with or gently 
rebuked as one beloved of the common Father, and 
redeemed by the precious blood of Christ. 

She began early to have her little visions of celestial 
glory, and even some premonitions of the career to which 
she was to be called. The old church of St. Dominic in 
Siena stands, as I have said, on the summit of a little 
hill or rising ground separated by a pleasant little valley 
from the quarter in which Catharine's family resided. 
This valley so often traversed by her, and this venerable 
church with its adjacent monastery, were spots familiar 
and dear to her heart. We shall have to people them in 
imagination by-and-by with the most intimate friends 

'24 CatJuirine of Siena. 

of Cathariile, the devoted friar preachers of St. Dominic, 
and the sisters of the Militia of Jesus Christ, who shared 
her active life and accompanied her in many of her mis- 
sions. The chapel by the side of the church was one of 
her favourite resorts for prayer : it was there that she spent 
long hours in ecstatic communion with her Lord ; and in 
the nave and on the steps of the great church she daily en- 
countered the radiant faces of her brethren and sisters in 
the faith, and held sweet converse with them. The bell- 
tower of the church can be seen from the wool- dyer's house 
in the Contrada d'Oca, and its matin and vesper bells sound 
clear across the little valley. When Catharine was six years 
old, her mother sent her with her little brother Stephen to 
take a message to the house of their sister Bonaventura : 
their errand being accomplished, the children were about to 
return by the valley, when Catharine, looking up to the 
golden clouds of evening, saw over the gable end of the 
church of the Friar Preachers, a vision of Jesus, very glori- 
ously apparelled, and terrible in majesty and beauty. As 
she gazed in awe, the Saviour, she said, looked towards her 
and smiled lovingly upon her, extending his hand in bless- 
ing. While she was lost in the contemplation of this vision, 
her little brother continued to descend the hill, imagining 
that she was following : turning round, he saw his sister 
far off, looking up to heaven ; he called to her as loud as he 
could call, but she made no answer ; at length he ran back 
to her and took her by the hand, saying, " Come on, why 
are you stopping here 1 " Catharine appeared to awake 
from a deep sleep, and bursting into loud weeping, she 
replied, " Stephen, if you could only see what I see, 
you would never have disturbed me thus ! " and her eyes 

Adventures of Tier ChUdhood. "23 

again turned towards heaA'en, T)ut the vision had vanished', 
to Catharine's great grief, who turned homewards weeping. 
From this moment she Avas observed to become graver and 
•more thoughtful than before. 

She had lieard many recitals of the lives of the Fathers 
of the Desert, and about a year after this incident she con- 
ceived a strong desire to imitate them. In this she was not 
lingular: it is not uncommon to find children in modern 
as well as early times, possessed with a romantic idea of 
pilgrimage, or retirement to the desert. St. Theresa of 
Spain read with her little brother, when she was a child, 
the lives of martyrs and hermits. " They determined to be 
martyrs, they would go to the nearest Moorish kingdom, 
(Wherc as soon as they arrived, their heads would be cut 
oflF; and without asking leave, or saying a word to any- 
one, they started, and had crossed the bridge out of the 
town, when an uncle encountered them and took them 
home. The martyrdom project coming to an end, they 
thought of turning hermits, and built themselves cells in 
the garden ; but here their mechanics failed them ; the 
roofs fell in, and they lost heart." i And some of ourselves 
have known children who, after reading the " Pilgrim's 
Progress," have hopefully started in search of the land of 
Beulah and the heavenly City, and after having lost their 
shoes and been covered with mud in some wayside bog 
which they would gladly have believed was the veritable 
Slough of Despond, with the wicket gate and its angel* 
porter beyond, have returned home, draggled and weary, 
to the mother's fireside. Little Catharine was so fired 

^ ' ' Santa Teresa, 9. Psychological Study. " J. A. Froude. 

26 Cathanne of Siena. 

with the desire to imitate the Fathers of the Desert, that 
she frequently ran away to short distances from home to 
hide in some retired spot, where, however, her solitary 
musings were often rudely or comically broken in upon. 
One morning, in spite of past disappointments, she set 
out very early in search of the desert. She believed the 
ravens would kindly bring her food, yet the little woman 
was prudent and practical enough to provide herself with 
a loaf of bread to last over the first day, until she should 
ascertain more certainly what the conduct of the ravens 
was to be. Gliding through the gates for the first time 
in her life, she left the city behind her, and crossed a 
valley towards a range of little hills beyond. There she 
saw that the houses were more distant one from another, 
and thought that she was certainly now approaching the 
desert. She found a little grotto under a shelving rock, 
crept in, and with great joy set herself to pray and medi- 
tate. She remained there till the evening, when suddenly 
'* God revealed to her that he designed for her another 
mode of life, and that she must not leave the house of 
her father." ^ On leaving her grotto, she became anxious 
on seeing the evening far advanced, and afraid, not of the 
anger, but on account of the anxiety of her parents. 
" They will think I am lost, and how sorry they will be ! " 
she said, and the active, swift-footed little girl flew as 
fast as her feet would carry her, and never paused till she 
reached her father's house. The gossips said that she 
was carried by angels, or miraculously transported with- 
out once touching the ground, so rapid was her return. 

^ Raymond of Capua, " Life of St Catharine." 

Her Parents loish Jier to Marry. 27 

Grood sense and affection never failed to correct in her any 
tendency to exaggeration or to egotistical forms of piety. 

The desire to be allowed to preach arose very early in her 
mind. IShe dreamed that she was changed to a man and 
received the ordination of St. Dominic, and sighed on 
awaking to find herself still a girl. She used to collect 
around her in the little valley an assembly of little girls of 
her own age, and preach to them with " wonderful eloquence 
and power." She gained so much the hearts and imagina- 
tions of these little girls, that many of them imitated in 
their degree her manner of life, and continued to be her 
friends and fellow-workers when they grew up. 

A-t twelve years of age her parents and brothers began 
to talk of marriage for Catharine. Her father was par- 
ticularly anxious about her future, and could not be per- 
suaded that anyone of his acquaintance was worthy of 
such a child, ignorant as he was of the choice she had 
already made of a union far above all human alliances. 
Lapa took great pains in dressing and adorning her in- 
teresting daughter, caused her to deck her hair with 
graceful kerchiefs and pins, and "to ornament her neck 
and arms in a manner calculated to please such as might 
ask her hand in marriage." 

Catharine had other thoughts ; her absence of mind 
and little regard for even such innocent display as her 
mother's pride in her suggested, perplexed her parents. 
Lapa called in the aid of Bonaventura, a sister to 
whom Catharine was much attached. Bonaventura's 
little manoeuvres Avere for a time successful. Catharine 
swerved for a brief moment from the straight and diffi- 
cult path which she had set herself to pursue, but her 

28 CvUliarine of Siena. 

countenance became sad, her manner nervous, and she 
often fled suddenly from any company in which she found 
herself. Her secret determination to devote herself wholly 
in the unmarried state to the service of God and man was 
never, however, given up, and the "life angelical" con- 
tinually attracted her in the midst of the pleasures of earth, 
in which her heart found no rest. Her habit of prayer, 
however, had abated, and her spiritual life was in danger of 
being extinguished. At this time Bonaventura, still young, 
loving, and beloved, died in giving birth to a child. 
Catharine's grief was bitter ; this blow revealed to her the 
vanity of all earthly things, and she consecrated herself 
afresh to a life of prayer and holy service. The desire of 
her parents that she should marry was now, however, more 
openly expressed, and a young man of highly honourable 
character and family was introduced to her as desiring her 
hand in marriage. She continued a friendly but gentle 
resistance. This brought upon her a species of domestic 
persecution which tested her courage and strength of 
character. Her biographers, in their devout desire to heap 
honour upon the head of the saint, exaggerated, it seems to 
me, the unkindness of her parents. Their sternness was, 
perhaps, even not unwise ; for many a young girl in those 
<lays, captivated by the thoughts of a life of consecration, 
would turn a longing eye towards the monastery, and at the 
first severe trial would waver in her resolution, or having 
taken the irreparable step, would make the discovery too 
late that she had mistaken her vocation. There was no 
intentional cruelty in the conduct of Giacomo and Lapa 
towards their child ; they believed it necessary to test 
her resolution, and they acted sternly, in accordance with 

Her Father's Judgment of her. ^ 

this belief. The storm thus raised and prolonged in their 
household by the divergence and opposition of the wills of 
those who really loved each other was, however, very pain- 
ful to both parties. Catharine laboured cheerfully, never- 
theless, to fulfil every task imposed on her. She was 
forbidden to have a room to herself, and was ordered to 
share one with another member of the family. She chose to 
share the room of her little brother Stephen, because she 
could profit by his long hours of absence in the day, and his 
profound sleep at night, to continue her prayers and vigils. 
Here she cried daily to her Saviour to direct her path, and 
to claim her wholly as his own. Her brothers observed 
her constancy, and said to each other, "we are beaten; 
Catharine has won." Her father observed her silently, and 
became daily more convinced that she was not following the 
fancies of a capricious maiden, but the call of God. Ho 
chanced to enter her room one evening when she was 
absorbed in prayer. When he turned from her door he 
was covering his face with his hand, as if dazzled ; he told 
Lapa that he had seen a wonderful light resting upon and 
enveloping the girl ; some said that the light he saw rested 
in the form of a snow-white dove upon her head. What- 
ever the appearance, it is certain that Giacomo became still 
more thoughtful and more tenderly respectful towards his 
daughter from that hour in which he learned how direct 
and intimate were her relations with heaven. 

About this time Catharine had a dream, suggested, no 
doubt, by the constant and fervent desire of her waking 
hours to be enrolled in the Dominican Order, and to be- 
come a preacher. She dreamed that the good and great 
St. Dominic approached her, smiling, and said to her, 

30 Catharine of Siena. 

" Daughter, be of good cheer ; fear no hindrance, for the day 
is coming in which you shall be clothed with the mantle 
you so much desire." She awoke with her heart filled with 
joy, and on that very day she assembled her father, mother, 
brothers, and sisters, saying she had a communication to 
make to them, and thus she addressed the assembled 
family : — " For a long time you have resolved that I should 
marry, and my conduct must have convinced you that I 
cannot entertain such a proposal. I have never, however, 
explained myself clearly, because of the respect I feel for 
you, my parents; but duty forbids me to be silent any 
longer : I must now speak candidly to you, and reveal to 
you a resolution I have made, which is not of yesterday, 
but which dates from my infancy. Know, then, that I 
have made a vow, not in levity, but deliberately, and with 
full knowledge of what I was doing. Now that I am of 
maturer age, and have a better acquaintance with the 
nature of my own actions, I persist, by the grace of God, 
in my resolution, and it would be easier to dissolve a rock 
than to induce me to change my mind. Give up, therefore, 
for me, dear friends, all these projects for an earthly union ; 
it is impossible for me to satisfy you on this point, for I 
must obey God rather than man. If you wish me to 
remain as a servant in your house, I will cheerfully fulfil 
all your will to the best of my power ; but if you should be 
so displeased with me as to make you desire me to leave 
you, know that I shall remain immovable in my resolve. 
He who has united my soul to his, has all the riches of 
heaven and earth, and he can provide for and protect 
me." At these words all present wept ; sobs and tears 
prevented for a time any response. Awed by the firmness 

Catharine prevails . 31 

and courage of the hitherto silent and gentle girl, the 
whole family felt that further opposition was impossible. 
At last the father spoke : — " God preserve us, dearest child, 
from any longer opposing the resolution which he has in- 
spired; experience proves to us that you have not been 
actuated by caprice, but by a movement of divine grace. 
Fulfil without hindrance the vow you have taken ; do all 
that the Holy Spirit commands you ; henceforth your time 
shall be at your own disposal ; only pray for us, that we 
may become worthy of him who has called you at so 
tender an age." Then, turning to his wife and children, 
he said, " Let no one hereafter contradict my dear child, or 
seek to turn her from her holy resolution ; let her serve 
her Saviour in the way she desires, and may she seek his 
favour and pardoning mercy for us ; we could never find 
for her a more beautiful or honourable alliance, for her soul 
is wedded to her Lord, and it is not a man, but the Lord 
who dieth not, whom we now receive into our house." 
After these words some still wept, and especially the poor 
mother, who loved her daughter in a more earthly fashion, 
perhaps, than the father did. Catharine humbly thanked 
her parents, and rejoiced exceedingly. 

She was now permitted to arrange for herself the little 
private room, or cell, which became her sanctuary, and the 
scene of her marvellous converse with God for so many 
years, and which is shown in Siena to this day. Here she 
devoted herself to prayer and to the study of the will of 
God. For three years she scarcely quitted this cell. She 
put forth during those years the strength of an athlete in 
her wrestlings with heaven, determined first to know her 
Saviour and her own heart, and then to do and to bear in 

32 Catharine of Siena. 

this world whatever he should ordain for her, awaiting the 
time when he should call her to a still nearer communion 
with himself. These years were not a time of listless con- 
templation nor of sentimental piety for the dyer's daughter. 
They were a stern and energetic preparation for the com- 
bats of her future life. 

She was very sparing in her diet; she gave biit little time 
to sleep, and her bed was composed of a few planks with- 
out any covering; she wore coarse clothing, but "as she 
cherished cleanliness and exterior neatness as a sign of in- 
terior purity," she frequently changed her woollen garments, 
and allowed no outward marks of asceticism to appear in 
her person. It was her custom to continue in prayer until 
the hour of matins, Avhen, at the first sound of the matin 
bell from the tower of her dearly-beloved church of St. 
Dominic, she stretched herself on her wooden bed for a 
brief hour of sleep; she loved to think that an unbroken 
chain of prayers was ascending to God from the people's 
quarter of the city, and she would not cease until the 
brothers and sisters of St. Dominic had begun the matin 
prayer and hymn of praise. She confided to Raymond, in 
later life, that this victory over sleep had cost her more than 
any other, and that she had undergone inexpressible conflicts 
in triumphing over the natural desire for repose. Such con- 
quests over self and over the infirmities, even over many of 
the just and natural demands of the body, have never been 
absent in the lives of those whom, par excellence, we call 
" the saints," those who have left behind them an influence 
which is of God, and imperishable; an influence which 
even the most sceptical must confess to have been benign, 
and charged with blessing for humanity. Catharine's 

Her Austerities. Her Mother's Solicitude. 33 

health was delicate, yet she possessed an extraordinary 
nervous energy, and even a muscular strength which 
astonished those who saw her exert it in the performance of 
any generous or helpful act. She suffered all her life from 
a weakness of the stomach, which made it difficult for her 
to take any food without pain, succeeded often by violent 
sickness and vomiting. She was also subject to attacks of 
weakness and prostration, especially in the spring, which 
would last several weeks. 

Her mother was distressed at the sight of her austerities^ 
and implored her to eat more, as indeed did all her family. 
The obedient daughter would make the attempt, in order 
to please her family, but with very poor results; for the 
sickness became more severe and spasmodic, so that she 
sometimes fainted away and remained insensible for a long 
time, through the violence of her sufferings. Lapa would 
sometimes enter her room in the early morning, and lifting 
her in her arms, would carry her to her own bed and gently 
place her there for greater comfort; but her daughter^ 
thanking her kindly, begged the favour of being allowed to 
return to her planks in her own dear little room ; or if she 
found her mother herself had fallen asleep, she would rise 
softly, and kneel and pray for that dear anxious mother, 
and for all her family. 

The desire to enter into the third order of St. Dominic 
continually increased. It may be useful to say a few words 
here concerning that valiant soldier of Christ, St. Dominic. 
This active and zealous apostle laboured for very needful 
reforms in the Church and in the world. In order to work 
more effectually for these reforms, he brought together a 
number of laymen, and organized them into a kind of militia. 


34 Catharine of Siena. 

Those wlio enrolled themselves swore to sacrifice, if necessary, 
their earthly goods and their lives ; and their wives engaged 
themselves also by a vow never to hinder, but to assist as 
much as possible, their husbands in their work. These 
associates took the title of Brethren and Sisters of the 
Mihtia of Jesus Christ; they wore the black and white 
habit of St. Dominic. This Militia, after the death of St. 
Dominic, was placed under the direction of his own Friar 
Preachers, and assisted that hardworking and truly apostolic 
body in their labours for the reform of morals and the 
salvation of souls. The Sisters of the Militia changed their 
title later into that of the Sisters of Penance of St. Dominic. 
Catharine had seen and heard many of the wandering Friar 
Preachers who, in default of a temple made with hands, 
would gather the people in the fields and by the wayside in 
the cool of the evening to hear the glad tidings of grace. 
What life, she thought, could be so blessed as this ? what 
mission so sacred as this of carrying the lamp of truth from 
city to city 1 Who so hap})y as these messengers, disencum- 
bered of all worldly ties, and ready for all the martyrdom 
of life as well as for death ? But she was a woman ! That 
she should ever share so blessed a life, that she should ever 
be permitted to pour forth in words of fire the burning 
love of her heart for humanity, seemed for a time an idle 
dream. Still the desire continued ; still she longed to 
become a preacher, and the first step was that she should be 
enrolled as a Mantellata ; (such was the name given to the 
wearers of the cloak or mantle of St. Dominic). We 
find her mother so far won to accept her child's ideas as 
to go herself to the Fraternity of St. Dominic to request 
this favour for her daughter. She received for reply that 

Her Manners and Personal Appearance. 35 

"it was not the custom to give the mantle to young 
maidens; that hitherto none but widows of very mature 
age, or wives consecrated to work with their husbands, had 
received it; also that the Mantellatas had no cloister or 
building devoted to them, and that each Sister must be 
able to rule her life in her own home." On a second 
application being made by Lapa, the Elders among the 
Sisters replied, " If she be not too handsome, nor of a 
beauty too remarkable, we will receive her on your account 
and hers ; but if she be exceedingly pretty, we shall be 
obliged to refuse, for we are bound to avoid the incon- 
veniences that might spring from the malice of men at the 
present period." After having conversed with Catharine 
herself, and observed the maturity of her thoughts, and the 
strength of her purpose, the Fraternity decided to admit 
her. Catharine was not beautiful. We gather from the 
slight mention of her personal appearance, and from the 
bust and portrait of her executed by contemporary artists, 
that her face expressed, above all things, candour, sweetness, 
and vigour. Her countenance was frank and open as the 
day ; she had a habit of looking straight at everyone whom 
she addressed ; her forehead was broad and open, a little 
too receding for beauty ; her hair and eyebrows dark brown ; 
her eyes a clear grey or hazel ; her nose was straight and 
extremely delicate; her chin and jaw strong and rather 
prominent ; her smile is continually mentioned ; a loving, 
gracious smile, which pervaded her whole countenance, lit 
up her eyes, and often broke into a joyous laugh. Her 
charm was not that of positive beauty, but of kindness, 
frankness, and grace. All her movements were full of 
native grace. " An artist born," as Chavin de Malan says 


36 Catharine of Siena. 

of her, " her attitudes and manner were all unconsciously 
artistic and beautiful." A true Italian, she used much action 
in speaking, gesticulated freely, but not excitedly. She 
spoke rather rapidly and in the sweetest Sienese accent ; she 
had a particularly graceful and gracious manner towards all 
who came to visit her, bowing low to greet them, as was the 
custom in her time, sometimes kneeling when saluting 
persons whom she deemed especially venerable, and then 
seating herself by their side for frank and friendly converse. 
Her manners, with men and women alike, outstripped some- 
what the prescribed conventionalities of her times. Young 
men who would come with some feeling of awe to visit the 
far-famed saint, and not without fears concerning the inter- 
view, were taken by surprise, gladdened and reassured by 
her frank approach, her two hands held out for greeting, her 
kind, sisterly smile, and the easy grace with which she 
invited them to open their hearts. She was, in fact, a true, 
simple, and self-forgetting woman, a frank and generous 
friend, the " gracious lady " of Siena, who well deserved all 
the love and all the confidence which her fellow-citizens 
first, and afterwards the whole of Italy, lavished upon her. 
There was nothing affected, nothing artificial about her. 
With all her refined grace, she yet bore with her to the end 
the simple and almost blunt manners and habits of the 
"Daughter of the People." The honest pride in, and affec- 
tion for her entertained by the Sienese is illustrated in the 
various titles by which they delighted to speak of her, as 
well as in many other expressions in regard to her. She is 
called " the Daughter of the Republic," " the Child of the 
People," " Our Lady of the Contrada d'Oca," " the Mantel- 
lata," "the People's Catharine," "the Beloved Sienese," "the 

The Secret of her Spintital Life. 37 

Painter's Daughter," the " Beata Popolana," which may be 
translated the "Blessed Plebeian, or Daughter of the People," 
(fee, (fee. On receiving the habit of St. Dominic, she did 
not at once enter upon an active life. Indeed, it appears 
that it required some holy constraint to draw her out of 
her cell and to launch her upon the stormy sea of social and 
political life before her. 

And here I must pause to speak of that great secret of 
Catharine's spiritual life, the constant converse of her soul 
with God. Her book, entitled " The Dialogue," represents 
a conversation between a soul and God, mysterious and per- 
haps meaningless to many, but to those who can understand, 
full of revelation of the source of her power over human 
hearts. All through her autobiography (for such her Dia- 
logue and Letters may be called) no expressions occur more 
frequently than such as these : " The Lord said to me," &c. 
— " My God told me to act so and so " — " While I was 
praying, my Saviour showed me the meaning of this, and 
spoke thus to me." I shall not attempt to explain, nor shall 
I alter this simple form of speech. It is not for us to limit 
the possibilities of the communications and revelations 
which the Eternal may be pleased to make to a soul which 
continually waits upon him. If you are disposed, reader, 
to doubt the fact of these communications from God, or to 
think that Catharine only fancied such and such things, 
and attributed these fancies to a divine source, then I would 
give you one word of advice, and one only. Go you and 
make the attempt to live a life of prayer such as she 
lived, and then, and not till then, will you be in a posi- 
tion which will give you any shadow of a right, or any 
power to judge of this soul's dealings with God. But 

38 Caihanne of Siena. 

observe that a brief or fitful effort will not suffice to place 
you in this position : you must persevere long in the diffi- 
cult path of divine research ; you must bring to the task 
the sustained self-denial and untiring diligence which some 
men bring to the pursuit of discovery in natural science. 
Let us imagine a person who had never seen a telescope, 
and who was profoundly ignorant of the most elementary 
laws which govern the motions of the planets, and suppose 
this person to have stepped in between Newton and the 
stars, and declared, " Philosopher, I do not believe what 
you tell me of the wonderful action of these heavenly 
bodies ; I believe you to be deceiving yourself ; I have not 
tried any such experiments as you have tried ; and I do 
not believe that any such experiments can conduct to any 
such results as you speak of, even if any such experiments 
can be made. The whole thing is beyond the range and 
scope of my own experience, and I cannot conceive how it 
can be true. In fact, I deny it." Such a person would be 
pronounced unscientific at least ; perhaps he might justly 
be called a fool. Not less unscientific is he who, never 
having used the means for the discovery of spiritual truth, 
and being profoundly ignorant of the most elementary 
laws which must be understood and followed in order to 
arrive at such truth, declares that he does not believe there 
is a God, or does not believe that any communication can 
be established between a creature and his Creator, and 
attributes to delusion and fancy all that experimental 
philosophers in divine things have told us they have 
found and seen. Perhaps it might not be unjust to appl}'' 
a stronger word than unscientific also to such a one. The 
science of which Catharine was a devotee is, let it be 

The Science of Prayer. 39 

remembered, pre-eminently an experimental science. For 
many, however, it is needless that I should speak thus ; nor 
will I attempt any explanation or apology for the manner 
in which our saint constantly speaks of that which the 
natural eye hath not seen, nor the ear heard, but which God 
has in all times revealed to them that persistently seek him. 
Those who have any experience of real prayer know full 
well that in the pause of the soul before God, after it has 
uttered its complaint, made known its desires, or sought 
guidance in perplexity, there comes the clearer vision of 
duty, and the still small voice of guidance is heard, rectify- 
ing the judgment, strengthening the resolve, and consoling 
the spirit ; they know that this influence, external to us, 
and yet within us, gently and forcibly moves us, deals with 
us, speaks with us, in fine. Prayer cannot be truly called 
communion, if the only voice heard be the voice of the 
pleader. Be still, be silent, then, dear reader, if you are dis- 
posed to object. If you have not yet heard that voice of God 
speaking within you, it is because you have not yet pleaded 
enough Avith him ; it is because you have not yet considered 
or acted in this matter in a truly scientific manner. 

Catharine now learned from our Lord that she "was 
henceforth to banish from her heart all anxious thoughts 
concerning herself and her own salvation," so that no dis- 
traction should keep her back from the service of the 
souls of others. Some presentiments, however, of ap- 
proaching conflict seemeil to have urged her at this time 
to pray especially for the gift of fortitude, and this forti- 
tude was soon to be severely tried. She was to pass 
through one of those bitter conflicts, the very memory of 
which is pain to those who have endured them. "The 

40 Calharine of Siena. 

great enemy of man advanced to the dread assault of her 
soul," as he did with our Lord himself when he was "alone 
in the wilderness, and tempted of the devil." She was 
assailed "by the most humiliating temptations, and by 
exciting phantoms of the imagination which haunted her 
sleeping and waking. She saw in her dreams impure orgies, 
wherein men and women seemed to invite her by words 
and gestures to join with them ; she was tormented in- 
wardly ; her eyes, her ears, her soul, seemed to her to be 
defiled." She endured combats too horrible to relate. All 
the passion of her young southern blood seemed to rise up 
in a fierce rebellion against her own resolution and the 
ruggedness of the vid crucis. She combated valiantly, 
prayed the more earnestly, worked the more assiduously 
in household work, and augmented her vigils. The enemy 
refused to retire. She seemed to see persons who came to 
pity and advise her. " Why, poor little one," they said, 
" do you thus torture yourself so uselessly 1 Why all these 
efforts and self-mortification ? You will not be able to con- 
tinue them ; you will destroy yourself, and become guilty 
of suicide. It is better to renounce these austerities and 
enjoy the world while you are young ; you are naturally 
strong, and would soon recover health if you live as other 
people do." To all these suggestions Catharine only op- 
posed prayer. She afterwards gave the advice in general 
to others in such cases, never to dispute with the enemy, 
" for he relies," she said, " very much on vanquishing us by 
the subtilty of his reasonings." 

But this deadly trouble passed away, and then there 
came a period of sadness and bitter conflict which ap- 
peals far more pitifully to all our human sympathies. 

Conflict. 41 

The woman's heart within her was beating fresh and warm : 
she was young ; her soul was full of music and of poetic 
imaginations; who more fitted by nature than she to realize 
the highest and sweetest of human love ? It was the era 
of romance, the age of the troubadours. She had heard 
many a fair tale of love ; the noblest of earthly lovers 
seemed to woo her ; the vision stood near her, and looked 
in her eyes ; his exquisite human pleadings broke in upon 
the songs of angels, and extinguished the voice of her 
heart's Spouse. When she slept, exhausted, she dreamed 
herself in the midst of a sweet home — lier own ; she 
seemed to clasp in her arms the little infant which hung 
upon her breast ; and waking, the woman's heart within 
her was well-nigh broken. Her little room was filled with 
a strange mingling of heavenly and earthly music. The 
love-songs of the troubadours interrupted the strains of 
the Magnificat and the penitential psalms. She had hours 
of agonizing hesitation of will. Wise and practical coun- 
sellors seemed to advise her : " Why be so rash as to 
choose a life in which you cannot persevere 1 Why ex- 
tinguish within you the holy impulses of nature which 
God has implanted in you ? Many among the saints were 
married. Think of Sarah and Eachel, and of many of 
recent years; of your contemporaries; of St. Bridget, 
Queen of Sweden, wife, mother, and prophet." But the 
celestial wooer prevailed. The love of loves was again 
more perfectly manifested to her, the agony was over, and 
she fell at the feet of Jesus. 

Many in our days will disapprove of Catharine's choice ; 
it will appear to them an error, a sin even, against herself, 
and perhaps against society ; for what greater boon, some 

42 CatJianne of Siena. 

will say, could she have bestowed than descendants who 
would, no doubt, more or less, have inherited her own 
nobility and genius 1 Doubtless Catharine might have 
married, and given to the world twenty-five children, as 
her mother Lapa did. No doubt she might have been 
in this state the recipient and dispenser abundantly of 
spiritual life to all around her : but she would not have 
done the work which Catharine of Siena, the subject of 
this biography, did : her whole soul, her whole time, the 
whole strength of her affections would not have been 
reserved to be lavished upon that great familj'- for whom 
she elected to live — humanity. 

I do not find that there entered into her thoughts the 
smallest idea of merit or of reward in renouncing earthly 
joys and human ties. The most careful search through all 
her utterances, written or spoken, fails to reveal a single 
word claiming to herself any merit. Her dying words give 
the key to the faith or the philosophy which she embraced 
from her childhood. Barduccio, one of her secretaries, who 
gathered up her last words, tells us that when she knew she 
was dying, "she blessed us all, and pronounced these words: 
' Yes, Lord, thou callest me, I come to thee ; I go to thee, 
not on account of my merits, but solely on account of thy mercy, 
and that mercy I have implored in the name, Jesus, of 
thy precious blood.' " The words in italics are emphasized 
by Barduccio himself, as if to preserve the solemnity 
with which they were pronounced by Catharine. Nor 
does she speak of reward, except the reward of bringing 
blessing to her fellow-creatures. Like St. Paul, she was 
ready "to be accursed from Christ for her brethren's 
sake." She was ready to give up all things for the love 

CmflicL 43 

she bore to her brethren, to humanity. Yet she knew that 
he who labours to bring his fellow-men to God, will not be 
required to give up the blessed reward of seeing him face 
to face to whose feet he has brought this multitude of souls : 
"For they that are teachers shall shine as the light, and 
the}' that have brought many to righteousness, as the stars 
for ever and ever." Had Catharine's choice been other- 
wise, she might have been blessed indeed, yet would have 
missed the peculiar blessing of those of "whom Christ spake 
emphatically, who have " left father and mother, and wife 
and children, and houses and lands, for my sake, and for 
the gospel." And what was that peculiar blessing 1 In 
her case, at least, it was a greater power — power to win, to 
convert, to suffer, to rule, to command, for the salvation of 
erring man, and for the glory of God. 

For a time peace was granted to the soul of Catharine 
after this prolonged conflict of many weeks. But " the 
infernal foe," as the mediaeval historians have it, " annoyed 
at her perseverance and victory," again " changed his 
weapons," and recommenced his tortures. A still darker 
period arrived, in which her sufferings were such as 
almost to deprive her of reason. Diabolical beings seemed 
to pursue her with screams, inviting her to partake in 
their abominations; the most cynical suggestions were 
poured into her mind, and to crown her affliction, her 
divine helper, who had usually in the worst moments 
made his sustaining presence felt by her, now seemed to 
have forsaken her, and she was left with no relief, visible 
or invisible ; her soul was plunged into a profound melan- 
choly, and the strength to continue in prayer seemed 
about to forsake her. She now summoned all her energy, 

44 Catharine of Siena. 

adjured her own soul, so to speak, to renew and to multiply 
its efforts in prayer, instead of diminishing them. She cast 
herself at the feet of God, determined not to murmur, but 
patiently to await his return and help. Her little room at 
the Fullonica seemed to be " infested with these impure 
spirits ; " she therefore wisely left it, and remained as long 
as possible in the church on the hill, where these " infernal 
obsessions tormented her less." Here she continued for the 
greater part of three days engaged in constant prayer. The 
evil spirit seemed still to taunt her, saying, " Poor miserable 
creature, thou canst never pass thy whole life in this state ; 
we will torment thee to death, unless thou dost obey us." 
Catharine replied with patience, yet with determination, 
" Be it so ; I have chosen suffering for Christ's sake, and I 
am willing, if need be, to endure this till death." Imme- 
diately on pronouncing this determination, a great light 
seemed to descend from above, filling the place where she 
kneeled with heavenly brightness. The devils left her, and 
One better than the angels came and ministered to her. The 
Lord Jesus himself drew nigh to her, and conversed with her 
of her trial and her victory. But she, like St. Anthony, 
said to him, " Lord, where wast thou when my heart was 
so tormented 1" "I was in the midst of thy heart," he 
replied. " Ah, Lord," she answered, " thou art everlast- 
ing Truth, and I humbly bow before thy word ; but how 
can I believe that thou wert in my heart when it was filled 
with such detestable thoughts 1 " The Lord asked her, 
" Did these thoughts and temptations give thee pleasure or 
pain?" "An exceeding pain and sadness," she replied; 
to whom the Lord : " Thou wast in woe and sadness, be- 
cause I was hidden in the midst of thy heart; my pre- 

The Vidwy. 45 

sence it was which rendered those thoughts insupportable 
to thee ; thou didst strive to repel them, because they filled 
thee with horror, and because thou didst not succeed, thj' 
spirit was bowed down with sorrow. When the period 
which I had determined for the duration of the combat had 
elapsed, I sent forth the beams of my light, and the shades 
of hell were dispelled, because they cannot resist that light. 
Because thou hast accepted these trials with thy whole 
heart, thoii art delivered from them for ever ; it is not thy 
trouble that pleases me, but the loill that has supported 
that trouble courageously." Catharine was now absorbed 
in a joy which could find no expression in words. She had 
asked the gift of fortitude, and she saw that her request 
had been granted. "This generous young athlete," says 
Raymond, "thus combated alone in the arena," and return- 
ing victorious, became for the future a fit teacher and guide 
of men, to whom among all her counsels she gave most 
frequently this, " Quit yourselves like men ; be strong in 
the Lord, and in the power of his might. "^ She never 
again suffered from a renewal of this form of temptation. 

It was shortly after the cessation of this conflict that 
Catharine entered into that yet more intimate covenant 
with the Saviour of her soul, the recital of which to some 
of her friends became the occasion of the propagation of 
the legend immortalized by so many Italian painters of 
the mystical marriage of St. Catharine. The pictures 

^ Tonimaseo remarks on the frequency in Catharine's letters to 
princes and potentates, and men of every degree, of the use of the 
words " virile " and " virilmente," and of her charges to women as 
w^ell as to men to act in a manly spirit. 

46 Catharine of Siena. 

generally represent the Virgin Mary guiding the hand of 
the Child Jesus to place on the finger of Catharine a ring, 
which was to be a sign of her divine espousals. Fra 
Bartolommeo, himself a Dominican, was the first to put 
the idea on canvas. One of the most beautiful and often 
repeated works of Correggio is the " Marriage of St. Catha- 
rine." One of these is in the Studj Gallery at Naples. 
Other repetitions are at St. Petersburg, in the gallery of 
the Capitol at Rome, and in other places. Catharine's own 
account of this dream or vision which she had is very 
simple. She saw her Saviour approach, and place on her 
finger a ring, on which blazed a diamond of unearthly 
purity and beauty. He had said to her, "I, thy Creator 
and Redeemer, espouse thee in faith and love. Preserve 
this token in purity, until we celebrate in the presence of 
the Father, the eternal nuptials of the Lamb. Daughter, 
now acquit thyself courageously ; perform with a dauntless 
spirit the works which my providence will assign to thee ; 
thou shalt triumph over all enemies. " She had been long and 
intensely dwelling upon the words spoken by our Lord to 
his disciples, " With desire have I desired to eat this Pass- 
over with you ; " and she had realized in all its extent and 
meaning what she had given up in order to be more entirely 
the servant of God and of humanity. That her heavenly 
Guide should have at this moment granted her such strong 
consolation and such a perfect sense of mutual recognition 
and union between her spirit and his, was consistent with the 
infinite loving-kindness and fidelity with which he treats 
the souls which give up all for the kingdom of heaven's 

About this time Catharine taught herself to read, for 

Her Progress in Knowledge. 47 

she had had hitherto no knowledge whatever of letters. 
She desired to be able to study for herself the Scriptures, 
especially the Psalms and Gospels, as well as the lives and 
writings of the fathers, confessors, and martyrs. She 
learned Avith such rapidity that her friends declared that 
the angel Gabriel himself had come down to her cell with a 
spelling-book to teach her, for nothing but a miracle, they 
thought, could account for her sudden accession of learning. 
It was not till many years later that she learned to 
write ; and yet some Italian writers rank this woman with 
Petrarch and Boccaccio, as one of those who " formed the 
• Italian language, such as it was in the fourteenth century." 
The dignity and beauty of her language have even led 
writers to compare her style, not unfavourably, with that 
of Dante. She wrote several poems of some merit; but 
her books, in which her own " philosophy " is set forth, 
her letters, many of which are preserved to us, and her 
Avritten prajers, afford the chief justification for the high 
opinion formed of her powers as an author by her con- 
temporaries and by later historians. 

Up to this period she had never been under the direction 
of any spiritual pastor or guide. Raymond says : " He 
whom she loved gave her neither an angel nor a man to 
be her director, but appeai-ed to her himself in her little 
cell, and taught her all that was most needful for her to 
know. 'Be assured, father,' she said to me one day, 
' that nothing that I have learned concerning God and our 
salvation was taught me by man ; it was my Master, our 
Lord Jesus Christ, who revealed it to me by his in- 
spirations.' " This Raymond of Capua, so often quoted, 
did not make her acquaintance until the period of the 

48 Catharine of Siena. 

plague of 1373 in Siena, when Catharine was twenty-six 
years of age. Eaymond was, indeed, one of the spiritual 
sons of Catharine, having been a mere formal functionary 
of the Church up to the time of his acquaintance with 
her. He afterwards became her intimate friend and fellow- 
labourer, and finally her biographer ; but more of this 

With this part of Catharine's history terminates her 
silent and retired life. We shall now see how she was 
gradually drawn among the busy haunts of men, how she 
was claimed as a guide to consciences, and called to public 
action as a counsellor and diplomatist. 


The Sienese manifested from the earliest period of their 
history the proud spirit of independence which character- 
ized them throughout. Tacitus tells how they drove out 
the senator Manlius Patruitus, and how the Roman Govern- 
ment was obliged by a solemn decree to teach them a lesson 
of humility.^ When the tide of the Gothic invasion had 
swept over Italy, the Northern conquerors set their affec- 
tions more especially on fair Tuscany, and sought to establish 
themselves in her plains and mountains, always preferring 
the country to the cities. Siena, gathering herself together, 
so to speak, with all her force, succeeded in preserving her- 
self from the foreign influence, and maintained throughout 
the dark ages her own municipal administration. Her 
inhabitants continued to live by industry, manufactures, 
and the arts. From the eighth to the tenth century was 
the period of the lowest state of political and spiritual servi- 
tude for Italy. Siena, with other powerful cities, received, 
however, during that period, the training of misfortune, and 

1 "Additumque senatus conEultum, quo Senesium plebes modes- 
iiaeadmoneretur." — Tacitus, Hist., Lib. iv., Tom. iii. 

50 Catharine of Siena. 

emerging from it, strove for and won many rights and 
franchises. She declared herself independent, and became 
the first city of Tuscany. She maintained for a long time 
this place of honour, although she had an illustrious rival in 
the republic of Florence, which afterwards eclipsed her. A 
long series of conflicts between the Florentines and the 
Sienese succeeded the first great rupture between the two 
republics in 1082. 

The internal administration of the republic of Siena was 
as follows : The city was divided into three portions, called 
the Tierce of the City, the Tierce of CamoUia, and the 
Tierce of St. Martin. Each Tierce had its own banner, and 
its auxiliaries in the country around. The poet Tondi sang 
of the valour of the citizens of Siena, ranged under their 
three banners. There then came a subdivision of the 
inhabitants, which was according to the arts or trades. 
There were the Great Arts and the Inferior Arts. The 
seven great arts comprised jurists and notaries, merchants 
in foreign tissues, bankers or exchangers, clothiers, physi- 
cians, chemists, and merchants in silk and in furs. The 
inferior arts were those of retail clothiers, butchers, sad- 
dlers, shoemakers, and masons. Each division of the 
Great Arts had its council, a chief magistrate or consul 
for the administration of justice in that division, and 
its gonfalonier, or standard-bearer, around whom it ral- 
lied in times of battle. There was no paid or permanent 
army, but every citizen bore arms in time of war. Com- 
merce, which was the source of the wealth of the Italian 
republics of the Middle Ages, was also in a great mea- 
sure the source of their independence. The rich bour- 
geoisie supplied the cavalry for war ; no " cavaliere " 

Civil Life in Siena. 51 

was admitted into the army till he had passed a severe 
novitiate in military exercises, supplemented by pilgrim- 
ages, fasts, and trials of moral and physical strength. "He 
then," says Brant6me, " spent the night in vigil and prayer ; 
in the morning he was clothed in a white tunic, emblematic 
of the purity of life which he was expected henceforth to 
maintain." The infantry, drawn from the representatives 
of the Inferior Arts, also passed through a novitiate which 
tested their valour and skill. In the centre of the repub- 
lican army was the famous Carroccio, a car upon four 
wheels, drawn by four pairs of oxen covered to the feet in 
rich cloths. A horn or " antenna " rose from the centre of 
the car to a great height, upon which floated the standard 
of the republic, with its device of a golden lion, not ram- 
pant, but marching forward -^ a fitting device, " for these 
intrepid artisans were never known to flee." Lower down, 
about the middle of the antenna, a Christ upon the Cross, 
with outspread arms, seemed to bless the army. A kind 
of platform in the front of the car was reserved for the 
most valiant soldiers, told off for its defence; behind was 
another platform for the trumpeters and musicians. An 
act of religious consecration and worship was celebrated 
upon the car before it left the city, and white-robed priests 
accompanied it to the battle-field. As the Carroccio of 
Siena, drawn by the large mild-eyed oxen of Tuscany, 
wound its way through the gates and down the sloping 
olive-clothed hills from the city, crowds followed its course 
with straining eyes, from the walls and ramparts and house- 
tops. The loss of the Carroccio was to the republic like 

1 "Non rampaDte, ma caminante." — Tommasi, Historia di Siena. 

E 2 

52 Catharine of Siena. 

the loss of the Ark of the Lord to the Hebrews — the 
greatest public calamity ; and all that each city possessed 
of most valorous, the nerve and flower of the army, was 
chosen to act as the guard of the sacred car ; the fiercest of 
the conflict was waged around it ; and its presence often 
decided the fate of the battle. It was looked upon with 
superstitious reverence, and by a law of the republic a lamp 
was caused to burn night and day before the car which bore 
the destinies of the people. The Carroccio had a great 
influence upon military art in Italy. It Avas necessary to 
make the city infantry redoubtable, in order to resist the 
feudal cavalry, to give them firmness, equilibrium, weight, 
and self-reliance. Their evolutions must be measured and 
deliberate, even their retreat slow and well-ordered ; all 
must needs be harmonized with the strong and steady 
march of the oxen of the Apennines. 

In 1260 a great battle was fought between the rival 
republics of Florence and Siena. During the fiercest hour 
of the action, near the Castle of Montaperti, " an unusual 
alarm and disorder appeared in the Florentine ranks ; sud- 
denly many soldiers dropped their arms and stood still, 
each under the delusion that he was betrayed by his com- 
rade."i Jacopo del Nacca, the brave gonfalonier of Florence, 
rallied his followers and held aloft his standard, until his 
own treacherous countryman Bocca degli Abbati cut off his 
right hand, and he and his colours fell together. 

It was a great victory for the Sienese, who returned 
triumphant to their city with troops of prisoners ; the 
captive soldiers gathered round the women who had 

^ Villani, Lib. vi. 

Victory of tJie. Sienese over the Florentines. 53 

carried out bread to the army, imploring their protection ; 
the bells rang and the people rejoiced ; young girls pre- 
sented bread and wine to the wearied soldiers ; and the 
victorious army marched to the great cathedral to give 
thanks to God in solemn anthems. In that cathedral there 
may be seen to this day the antenna of the Florentine Car- 
roccio, firmly riveted to one of the pillars, a memento of 
the military greatness of an extinct republic.^ When the 
dust and the passion of the battle had subsided, the results 
were reckoned up. Florence had lost 10,000 men ; the 
river Arbia had rolled its waves, reddened with blood, over 
heaps of slain ; and " the flowers on its banks remained 
faded all that year;" there were 15,000 captives; the 
Florentine Carroccio had been taken; and the "beautiful 
city sitting upon her hills, wept, disconsolate." It was the 
memory of this defeat which Dante, some years later, in 
the bitterness of his exile from his beloved Florence, 
recalled to his countrymen, in his great poem, where the 
Tuscan Camiccione asks the poet, with tears, if he desires 
to wound him by reviving the memory of that terrible 

day :— 

" Piangeiiclo mi sgrido ; perchfe mi peste ? 
Se tu non vieni a crescer la vendetta 
Di Mout 'Aperti, perche mi molesti ? " — Iii/enw, xxxii. 

At the close of the twelfth century Siena exchanged its 
modest municipal government for the dignity of a consu- 
late. In less than eighty years this form of government 
expired ; the rivalries of the Guelphs and Ghibellines 
hastened its ruin; and towards the end of the thirteenth 
century the last consul, Ugurgieri, was driven forth from 

^ Cbavin de Malan. 

64 Catharine of Siena. 

the city gates with execration, and the clerk of the city 
exchequer paid ten florins to the artisans who provided the 
ropes and grappling-irons by which they pulled down and 
demolished his house. The chiefs of the popular party now 
took the management of affairs into their own hands, and 
in order, if possible, to shut out the nobles henceforth from 
all share in the government, they established a cunningly- 
devised system of elections which would insure the future 
members of the government being exclusively of the ple- 
beian class. The government was composed of nine persons, 
three from each of the Tierces of the city. This govern- 
ment, or signory, was called the " Mount of the Nine." 
The elections were so managed that the sovereign authority 
became in effect the monopoly of fewer than a hundred 
citizens ; this was a violation of the ancient charter of the 
city. The Nine soon became a kind of " Oligarchy of the 
Inferior Arts." They became odious to the nobility who 
were excluded from all share in the administration, and 
finally lost the confidence of the mass of the people them- 
selves, who resented the outrage upon the constitution of the 
republic. The three principal Guelph republics of Tuscany, 
i.e., Florence, Siena, and Perugia, ought, by an understood 
agreement which had been formed, to have made common 
cause in defence of their liberties ; but the Nine failed in 
their allegiance to their allies. The widely-feared and ill- 
famed family of the Visconti, Dukes of Milan, already 
possessors of almost the whole of Lombardy, dreamed of 
a day when they should bear rule over the whole of 
Italy ; they were the enemies of the peace of the country 
and the scourge of its inhabitants for nearly a century. 
The Nine of Siena were discovered to have made some 

The Emperor Cluirles IV. enters Siena. 55 

secret overtures to this ambitious family, actuated by 
selfish political motives, and in fear of the increasing dis- 
affection of the people of Siena. This increased the anger 
of the Sienese, and especially of the division of the Inferior 
Arts, upon which more especially the Nine had brought 
dishonour by their acts. This state of things lasted till 
the year 1355, when Charles IV., Emperor of Germany, 
entered Siena on his way through Italy to be crowned 
King of Rome. The terrible internal wars and troubles 
of Italy had drawn upon her the ambitious regard of the 
German sovereigns. " The yellow-haired German never 
crossed the Alps except with the view of conquest ; he 
thought it would be an easy thing to leap into the empty 
saddle of the wild horse of the Apennines, to master its 
fury, and render it obedient to his rule." ^ Charles IV. 
was an intriguing and greedy prince, possessing little 
courage ; all his negotiations with the Italians were 
deceitful ; he had no intention of embracing their quar- 
rels ; he made fictitious alliances with all the Northern 
Italian republics, and while treating in a friendly manner 
with the enemies of the Visconti, he was receiving the 
ambassadors of the great Duke of Milan and drawing up 
conditions of alliance with him also. He believed he 
should thus remove every obstacle to his triumphal march 
to Rome, to be crowned king of the imperial city, this 
title having being conferred on him by Pope Innocent VI., 
with a promise of making it a reality. The Sienese, who 
cared little about the personal designs or prospects of 

Dante apostrophizes Italy as " The riderless horse of the 
Apennines," and asks, " What does it avail thee that Justinian 
adjusted thy bridle if thy saddle is empty ? " 

66' Catluiiine of Siena. 

Charles, took advantage of his passing through Siena in 
order to enable them to cast off the hated yoke of the Nine, 
which they had endured for seventy years. The moment 
he entered the city he was greeted by cries of " Welcome 
the Emperor ! Down with the Nine ! " Charles was 
greatly alarmed ; he came seeking allies who would streng- 
then him, not a people with a grievance who would seek 
his help. He looked about him eagerly to try and dis- 
cover, without delay, which was likely to prove the stronger 
paity in this divided State, in order that he might give his 
royal countenance to that, independently of the justice of 
the question contended. His sympathies were with those 
actually in power ; but, on the other side he saw the chiefs 
of the nobility of Siena, who had thrown in their lot with 
the people to rid themselves of the oligarchy of the Inferior 
Arts. Among these there were the Tolomei, the Malavolti, 
the Piccolomini, the Sarracini, and the Salimbeni. The last 
were a powerful race, " as hard as oak," an immense tribe, 
and proud of their fecundity. He saw rich merchants and 
the mass of the humbler people also ranked against the 
government. This party was evidently the one on whose 
side he should declare himself. Charles made no effort, 
therefore, to check the popular revolution, and by the 
third day the sedition had assumed a very serious charac- 
ter. All business ceased ; ateliers were closed ; the streets 
were barricaded ; the Nine, shut up in the palace of 
the Signory, sent to the Emperor to implore his aid. 
The Emperor came, rode his horse into the palace, and 
commanded the Nine to give up to him the seals of office ; 
he bade them release him from a promise he had made 
before his arrival to maintain their authority, asked for 

Revelations and Political Changes. 57 

the charters he had given them, and burnt them before 
their eyes. The people forced the prisons, freed the 
prisoners, entered the church in Avhich were kept the 
banners of the Nine, and dragged them through the mud 
of the streets. The cry was heard on all sides, "Down 
with tlie tyrants ! let them die the death !" The houses of 
the ruling faction were burnt to the ground, their persons 
insulted, and several of them murdered.^ 

The humble industries of the Contrada d'Oca sufi'ered at 
this time with all other industrial and commercial interests. 
The workshop of Giacomo was closed. Catharine's two 
eldest brothers, Benincasa and Bartolommeo, were old 
enough to join in the popular revolt, and they, with the 
other apprentices of Giacomo, had left their wool-dyeing 
for the crowded streets. Catharine was then eight years 
old, of an age to understand her just and gentle father's 
comments on the events passing before them; none more 
than he resented the violation by the Nine of the con- 
stitutional rights of the people, but in him indignation was 
always tempered with mercy. Catharine, in her visits to 
the church of the Friar Preachers, saw the aisles silent and 
deserted ; the benches, wooden chairs, and every available 
portion of the church furniture had been removed for 
l>uilding barricades in the narrow streets. All that she 
saw and heard contributed to encourage in the young girl 
the strong republican love of liberty, and to confirm her in 
the conviction that human life is no holiday pastime, but a 
prolonged struggle between opposing elements, for nations 
as well as for the individual. 

1 Muratori, Vol. xv., p. 148, 

58 Catharine of Siena. 

When the first excitement of the revolution had been 
partly subdued, the Emperor, acting on the counsels of some 
of the popular citizens and nobles, appointed thirty com- 
missioners to make inquiry with a view to the reform of the 
government, and continued on his way towards Rome. On 
his return he found Siena still in a state of revolution. The 
people had excluded to perpetuity the order of the Nine 
from all participation in the government. They had elevated 
in their place twelve magistrates, chosen from the bourgeoisie. 
The Emperor did not favour the change, seeing that it 
promised no advantage to himself. He proposed to give 
to the Republic an arbitrator, or chief, to act as a 
moderator between the different parties, and succeeded in 
persuading the people to accept, in this capacity, his natural 
brother, the Bishop of Prague and Patriarch of Aquileia, 
who was then in his suite. The instinct of liberty, so 
strong in this people, led them to suspect and revolt 
against this arrangement almost as soon as it was com- 
pleted. It was an unpleasant sight to them to see the 
blonde face of the German Patriarch at the windows of 
the Pallazzo Pubblico; and they sent him to live in a 
private house. A sense of general uneasiness prevailed, 
and the Patriarch could not move or speak without giving 
offence. On the 14th of May, 1355, some incident occurred 
which excited the anger of the people ; the hot sun of the 
approaching summer stimiilating the passions already so 
turbulent. They fixed iron chains across every street to 
stop the cavalry which guarded the Patriarch, and forced 
him in person to recall the lately-appointed and superseded 
Twelve to the Pallazzo. Charles was then at Pisa; he 
confessed himself in fear and terror of these obstinate 

Continuance of Political Conflicts. 59 

republicans, and wrote from Pisa that the Patriarch must 
be sent to him, safe and sound, and that without delay.i 
"The Patriarch placed his resignation in the hands of the 
people, gave back to the republican officers all the neigh- 
bouring castles which he had garrisoned, and decamped, 
to the great relief of the Sienese, who re-established the 
Twelve, and returned to their merchandise and workshops." 
Thirteen years later, in 1368, a fresh revolution took 
place. The Twelve had, in this interval, become as 
tyrannical and hateful to the people as the Nine had 
been ; but they were still more detested by the ancient 
nobility. The two great families of the Tolomei and the 
Salimbeni, living in their fortified chateaux in the neigh- 
bourhood of Siena, called together all their vassals, and 
marching to the city, demanded the possession of the 
Pallazzo Pubblico and the reins of government. The 
Twelve retired in terror, without a conflict; the nobles, 
masters of the Eepublic, proclaimed the restoration of 
the Consulate of the twelfth century. Ten consuls were 
chosen by them from among themselves, and three from 
the number of the proscribed Nine. The people could 
not, however, accept their own exclusion from all share in 
the government, and revolted ; both parties had recourse 
again to the Emperor Charles. Charles, promising his 
protection to all, caused to be installed at Siena, as his 
imperial vicar, Malatesta Unghero, with a guard of eight 
hundred German soldiers ; the nobles vigorously opposed 
this step ; they defended their rights to a supreme part in 
the government, and resorting again to arms, they fought 

^ Muratori. 

60 Catharine of Siena. 

during one long day in the streets, and not until they had 
been beaten from gate to gate of the city, did they retire 
to their country castles. The popular party, now in the 
ascendant, set themselves the task of constituting a new 
form of government, and establishing a just distribution of 
political rights among the different orders of the State. 
Not desiring to obliterate their past, they recognized the 
existence of the Nine, and that of the Twelve, by the 
election, from their ranks, of a certain number of members 
of the new administration. They created, however, a new 
and more numerous order, largely recruited from the popular 
party, and this order received the name of the Reformers. 
The Twelve, still smarting under their recent deprivation 
of power, began, however, at once a series of intrigues 
with the view of recovering the supreme authority. They 
eagerly entertained the secret propositions of the Emperor 
Charles, who had formed a plan to sell Siena, and several 
other Tuscan cities, to the Pope. Charles needed money 
above all things; he had left his crown of gold in pawn 
with the Florentines for one thousand six hundred florins, 
and was anxious to redeem it. The city of Siena, which 
he was plotting to betray, had already lent him a large 
sum of money. Seeing that he could count on the 
alliance of the party of the Twelve, and of the numerous 
tribe of the Salimbeni, who had deserted the side of 
the nobles and joined the Twelve, he marched towards 
Siena, and haughtily demanded that the great Castle of 
Talamone, and four other strong fortresses surrounding 
Siena, should be delivered up to him. These fortresses, 
and especially that of Talamone, were the necessary de- 
fences of the Sienese against attacks from without. The 

Bepuhlican Fidorij. 61 

government of the Eeforniers rejected the demand. Diplo- 
macy having failed, Charles resorted to force. In January, 
1369, the party of the Twelve and the Salimbeni had offered 
a direct insult to three members of the new government, 
and endeavoured to drive them out of the Pallazzo Pubblico ; 
at the same moment the Emperor, armed from head to 
foot, marched with his German troops to the aid of his 
representative, Malatesta Unghero ; the Cardinal Guy de 
Montfort, who had come to collect the spoils of treason, 
rodo by Charles's side. The Reformers stood firm ; they 
sounded the tocsin, and the " Captain of the People," 
Mattenio Menzano, made a dashing attack upon the 
German army. The enraged people joined in the fray; 
Malatesta and his troop were driven back. The Emperor, 
who had advanced as far as the Croce del Travaglio, was 
impetuously attacked by the artisan militia ; his Germans 
took to flight after some hard fighting, and he himself took 
refuge in the palace of the Tolomei ; for seven hours he de- 
fended himself there, until the slain of both parties choked 
up the entrances and the streets near the palace. He was 
finally forced from this retreat into the stronger castle of 
the Salimbeni. Towards evening a complete victory was 
proclaimed for the Republic. The honour of this ^^ctory 
belongs to the illustrious plebeian Menzano, the captain, 
or tribune, of the people. Menzano was a man justly 
esteemed, even by his foes. Malavolti, the chronicler of 
Siena, and a noble, remarks, with aristocratic insolence, 
*' This man, Menzano, although a plebeian, was a man of 
a great soul, and very valiant." Menzano entreated the 
Emperor to quit the city, and "in order to render this 
entreaty more efficacious, he published, with sound of. 

62 Catharine of Siena. 

trumpet, a declaration forbidding anyone to furnish Charles 
or his soldiers with food." Neri di Donato, a contem- 
porary plebeian historian, gives the following account of 
the humiliation of Charles: "The Emperor was alone in 
the Salimbeni Palace, a prey to the most abject fear. The 
eyes of the whole people were turned upon him ; he wept, 
he sobbed, he apologized, he embraced everyone who 
came near him, protesting that he had been betrayed by 
Malatesta, by the Salimbeni, by the Twelve. ... At 
the same time he was treating, as well as he could, with the 
government and the people alike, offering freely his for- 
giveness, and many more favours than anyone asked of 
him. Trembling from head to foot, and half dead with 
hunger, he seemed to have lost his head ; he wished to get 
away, but could not, having neither horses nor money. 
Menzano then restored to Charles a portion of what he had 
lost. Scarcely had this relief been accorded him when 
Charles regained a degree of his old assurance, and de- 
manded, in consideration of the aflfronts he had endured 
and the favours he had granted, a sum of twenty thousand 
florins, payable in four years. The Sienese consented, and 
flung him the first year's contribution on the spot, on condi- 
tion that he would leave the city that moment, which he did." 
The Sienese had fought nobly for their liberties, and 
against imperial treachery ; it was long, however, before 
the agitation subsided, and the citizens could return to 
their industrial occupations. Such was the great revolu- 
tion which confirmed the freedom of the Republic in the 
days of Catharine of Siena, and during which she was more 
than once summoned by her fellow-citizens to act as a 

Industrial Disturbance in Siena. 63 

These revolutions which had their heroic side, had also 
their bad side. They tended to estrange from each other the 
different classes of citizens. The "Popolo Minuto," or class 
of the Inferior Arts, were the first to suffer : political strife 
invaded the workshops and created suspicion between the 
working people and the manufacturers. The workmen in 
the manufactories of woollen stuffs revolted against their 
employers ; they demanded a greater share in public affairs, 
and formed themselves into a band or trades-union, which 
was foremost in acts of violence during this revolution. A 
long conflict between the Great Arts and the Inferior Arts 
ensued, the last act of the drama being the execution of the 
Captain of the people and the Gonfalonier of the city in 
1371. Commerce was almost ruined, and a great number 
of families emigrated, carrying their industries to other 
cities : amongst others, the family of Catharine went to 
establish their art in Florence ; her three brothers, Benin- 
casa, Bartolommeo, and Stephen, appear to have settled in 
Florence on the death of their father, which occurred dur- 
ing these times of commercial depression. The widowed 
Lapa, with Catharine, and some others of the family, 
remained in the old house at Siena ; Catharine's niece, the 
eldest daughter of Benincasa, although still very young, 
was esteemed sufficiently skilful and prudent to take the 
management of a Fullonica, or wool-dyer's establishment, 
in Siena. Possibly she carried on a portion of the business 
in her grandfather's premises, when her father migrated to 
Florence ; or she may have opened an establishment of her 
own. Many of Catharine's letters during this period are 
addressed to her three brothers in Florence, from her own 
little room in Siena. 

64- Catharine of Siena. 

Another unfavourable result of these popular revolutions 
was the gradual extinction of the nobility of the Apennines, 
which was a valuable element in Tuscan life. That nobility 
served to curb the excesses of the democracy of the cities ; 
(this is acknowledged by Tommasi and other democratic 
historians) ; they offered an asylum to all citizens banished 
for their opinions, they encouraged tiie cultivation of the 
soil, and endowed the Republic with a flourishing agricul- 
ture.i Many of these noble families were of a character 
worthy of their high descent ; some of them lived in great 
simplicity and virtue, having profited by the lessons of 
adversity learned in their exile. Dante has immortalized 
the chivalrous Salvani, who came down one day from his 
mountain home, and appeared in the great square of Siena, 
where, forcibly repressing his native pride, he kneeled down, 
and continued kneeling until by his humble attitude he had 
moved the proud people to release from political imprison- 
ment a blood relation of his own. The people, touched by 
his prayers, threw down before him, piece by piece, the ten 
thousand florins of gold required for the prisoner's ransom. 
Dante, with his own proud soul bitterly wounded by unjust 
exile, has well described the repressed scorn and the mortal 
" trembling in the veins " of the proud gentleman forced to 
beg for so touching and so honourable a cause. ^ 

The chief biographer of Catharine records concerning 
her, that apparently about the year 1364 or 1365, "the 
Lord engaged her little by little to mix herself up with 
her brethren and sisters in this earthly exile." The first 
charge given to her by her divine guide in regard to her 

1 Cbavin de Malan. 2 Purgatorio, xi. 

She fears to leave her Solitude. 65 

entrance into active life, would not seem to us a very for- 
midable one : " Go, quickly, ray daughter," the divine 
monitor said, "it is the hour of the family repast ; join thy 
parents and thy family ; remain with them, and I will be 
with thee." But Catharine had lived so long in solitude, 
that to her mind such a step appeared as a very grave one, 
as an exchange of a life of perpetual pi'ayer for one of 
dangerous and worldly interests and occupations. The 
family was very numerous; and several of her father's 
apprentices lodged in the house. There was much busy 
life at the Fullonica, much coming and going, and constant 
intercourse with workmen, traders, and manufacturers of 
Siena and other cities. Catharine burst into tears on hearing 
this injunction of her Lord. "Wherein have I offended 
thee, my God ? " she cried, " that thou dost send me from 
thee ] What should I do at table 1 It is not by bread 
alone that man lives : are not the words that proceed out of 
thy mouth far better to impart vigour and energy to the 
soul of a pilgrim ? Thou knowest better than I that I fled 
from the society of men that I might find thee, my Lord 
and my God; and must I now mingle anew in worldly affairs, 
to fall again into my former Avorldliness and stupidity, and 
perhaps offend against thee V Then the Lord answered her. 
The answer, she told her confessor in reply to his question- 
ing, " was not given in these very words ; but these," she 
said, "are the things which he made me to understand as 
the expression of his will concerning me." The words, 
(given as translated from the "Acta Sanctorum" of the 
BoUandists), were as follows: " Be calm, my child ; thou 
must accomplish all justice, that my grace may become 
fruitful in thee and in others. I desire not that thou 


66 Cathanne of Siena. 

shouldst be separated from me ; on the contrary, I desire 
that thou shouldst become more closely united to me by 
charity towards thy fellow creatures. Thou knowest that 
love has two commandments, to love me and to love thy 
neighbour. I desire that thou shouldst Avalk, not on one, 
but on two feet, and fly to heaven on two wings. Call to 
mind that from thy infancy I have encouraged thee by my 
spirit in zeal for the salvation of souls. This zeal increased 
in thy heart so much, that thou didst wish to disguise thyself 
as a man, to enter into the order of preachers, and go forth 
into foreign countries, so that thou mightest become useful 
to souls. Why then dost thou wonder and grieve if I now 
lead thee to that which thou hast desired from thy child- 
hood ? " Then Catharine answered : " Lord, not my will, 
but thine be done ; for I am only darkness and thou art all 
light. But I beseech thee, Lord, if I presume not too 
much, how shall that be done which thou hast said, and how 
can I, who am so miserable and so fragile, be useful to my 
fellow creatures 1 for my sex is an obstacle, as thou, Lord, 
knowest, through many causes, as well because it is con- 
temptible in men's eyes, as because propriety forbids me any 
freedom of converse with the other sex." To whom the 
Lord, as the angel Gabriel to Mary: "The word impossible 
belongeth not to God : am not I he who created the human 
race, who formed both man and woman ? I pour out the 
favour of my spirit on whom I will. With me there is 
neither male nor female, neither plebeian nor noble, but all 
are equal before me ; and I can do all things equally well ; 
it is as easy for me to create an angel as the lowest insect, 
the whole host of heaven as one worm. It is written 
concerning me that I have done Avhatsoever I will; and 

She is directed towards an Active Life. 67 

nothing that is intelligible can be impossible to me. Why, 
therefore, dost thou ponder concerning how this thing is to 
be done ? Dost thou think that I cannot accomplish 
what I have resolved upon 1 But, inasmuch as I know that 
thou hast spoken thus, not because of faithlessness, but 
through humility, I will answer thee. I desire thee then 
to know that at the present time the pride of man has 
become so great — especially in those who esteem themselves 
to be learned and wise— that my justice can no longer bear 
M'iih them, and is about to visit them with a just chastise- 
ment. But, because I love mercy, and because my pity is 
ever over all my works, I will first send to them a salutary 
and useful confusion, that they may acknowledge their 
error and humble themselves ; even as I did with the Jews 
and Gentiles when I sent them simple persons filled by me 
with divine wisdom. Yes, I will send to them women, 
unlearned, and by nature fragile, but filled by my grace 
with courage and power, for the confusion of their froward- 
ness. If they acknowledge their error and humble 
themselves, I will cause my pity and mercy to increase 
towards them, that is, towards those who shall receive with 
reverence my messengers, and obey my teaching conveyed 
to them by these frail but chosen vessels. But if they 
contemn this rebuke designed for their healing, I will visit 
them with so many humiliations that they will become a 
by-word to the whole world ; for herein is the most just 
and most frequent punishment of the proud, that Avhereas 
they, carried away by the wind of their pride, seek to 
exalt themselves above themselves, they are cast down, 
and fall even below themselves. Wherefore, my daughter, 
do thou make haste to obey me, without further hesitation, 


68 Calhanne of Siena. 

for I have a mission for thee to fulfil, and it is my will 
that thou appear before the public. Wheresoever thou 
mayest go in the future, I will be with thee ; I will never 
leave thee, but will visit thee, and direct all thy actions." 
Catharine, prostrsiting herself at the feet of her Redeemer, 
replied, "Behold the hand-maiden of the Lord; be it unto 
me even as thou wilt." She then immediately quitted her 
cell, and joined her family as God had commanded her. 

After an apprenticeship in active duty in her father's 
house, where she was the ever-ready and joyous servant 
of all, she began to visit and relieve the poor of Siena. 
There was at that time no public or organized charity; 
neither was there in Siena any considerable destitute 
class ; yet there, as everywhere and at all times, there 
were individuals and families reduced to sore distress by 
sickness, the chances of war, or other misfortune. Catha- 
rine, it is said, " had the gift of discernment, giving only 
to those whom she knew had a real need, and in such 
cases she did not wait to be asked to give." There were 
some poor families in her neighbourhood reduced to great 
poverty, who would never solicit alms. She used to rise 
early every morning, and leaving her father's door at the 
first sound of the great bell of the Pallazzo Pubblico, (for 
it was forbidden to the people of Siena to leave their 
houses before this signal was given), she would carry to the 
dwellings of these poor people what would serve them 
for the day's necessities, and lifting her gift through the 
opening in the upper part of the door, which, in summer, 
the poorer people used generally to leave open for cool- 
ness, she would pray for God's blessing on the house, and 
glide quickly away in the cool shadows of the early 

She serves tlie Poor. 69 

morning, leaving the sleeping inmates ignorant of who 
their daily benefactor might be. What she had to bestow 
being exhausted, she sought her father, and asked him if she 
might deduct, according to her conscience, the portion of 
the poor from the ample means which he had realized by his 
industry. Giacomo cheerfully consented, because he saw 
clearly that his daughter " was walking in the way of per- 
fection ; " he announced to his assembled family the per- 
mission he had granted. " Let no one," he said, " prevent 
my beloved child from bestowing our goods on the poor. I 
grant her full liberty ; indeed, she may, if she likes, dis- 
pense all that is in the house." Catharine made use almost 
too literally of the generous permission of her father, so 
much so, that "all the inmates of the house, her father 
excepted, complained of her donations, and locked up what 
they had that she might not distribute it to the poor." 

I have spoken of the favour and affection with which 
Catharine was regarded by her fellow-citizens ; but this 
favour was the reward of her long perseverance in well- 
doing, and of her own sweet, unfailing charity, extended, 
during many years, to her enemies as well as friends. 
The goodwill of society is easily and quickly won by 
those who maintain an amiable and harmless mediocrity 
in virtue ; but those who are inspired and enabled to rise 
above the ordinary standard of excellence, or who step 
beyond the conventional limits of what is commonly 
esteemed becoming and consistent, run the risk of incur- 
ring more or less, for a time at least, the displeasure of 
society. Their sternness of virtue seems to rebuke the 
lower attainments of others ; and it is more frequently 
among the pious and the good that their critics and 

70 Catharine of Siena. 

detractors are to be found than among the ignorant and 
erring multitude. In the history of the Thebiad it is re- 
lated that a young man in secular clothing presented himself 
at the gate of a great monastery under the direction of St. 
Pacomius. He was invited to enter the community, but the 
extraordinary austerity of his life, and his exalted spiiitu- 
ality, so frightened the other monks, who were at that time 
also men of austere lives, that they revolted against the 
superior, and came in a body one day to tell him that un- 
less he immediately dismissed this monk they would one and 
all leave the monastery that very day. In like manner a 
kind of revolt broke out for a time among the Dominicans 
of Siena and the friends and neighbours of Catharine, on 
account of the singularity of her life of painful self-denial. 
" Everyone murmtired against her," says Raymond ; "some 
spoke against her fasting, and said, ' I warrant you she 
feeds herself well enough in secret ; ' others said that all 
the saints had taught l)y their word and example that we 
should never be singular in our way of living ; others said 
that all excess, even excess in self-denial, is vicious, and 
that such as fear God should avoid it ; some declared that 
they respected her intentions, but believed her to be the 
victim of dangerous illusions ; others, again, more coarf^e 
and vulgar, calumniated her publicly, and declared con- 
tinually that she was actuated by mere vanity, which 
prompted her to wish for notice." ..." She scarcely 
could at this time attend any public exercise of piety 
without drawing on herself the censures of those who 
ought to have been her defenders." ^ . . . "It was 
especially odious to those religious professors in whom 
^ Raymond, Part il , Chap. iv. 

The Juirsh Judgment of Society. 71 

self-love was not wholly conquered, that one so younsj 
should surpass all others by the severity of her morals and 
the fervour of her prayers. If they allowed her to go to 
Communion, they demanded that she should finish her 
prayers immediately, and leave the church."^ It very often 
happened that Catharine " fell into an ecstasy " while en- 
gaged in prayer. She became absorbed in the contempla- 
tion of heavenly things, and lost to all sense of the world 
around her. When in this rapt state of contemplation, her 
soul would seem to leave her body, and she sometimes 
became for a time quite insensible to all that was passing 
around her. On one such occasion Raymond found her in 
the church " ravished out of her senses," and heard her 
saying, in an undertone in Latin, " Vidi arcana Dei " (I 
have seen the secrets of God). She continued to repeat 
these words some time after, when she had returned to her 
house. Raymond asked her, " Why do you repeat these 
words 1 Can you not speak to us of some of the glorious 
things you have seen % " She replied that it was impossible : 
*' The distance is so vast between what my spirit contem- 
plated when God caught up my soul to himself, and what I 
could descriljc to you in human language, that I should feel 
I was falsifying what I saw in speaking of it ; all I can say 
is that I saw ineffable things." Like St. Paul, she was 
caught up to the seventh heaven, and " saw things which it 
is unlawful for a man to utter." On one of these occasions 
she was observed by some of her detractors, rudely carried 
out of the church, and brutally flung down upon the church 
steps in a state of insensibility, these persons protesting 
against her "illusions," and pretending to believe that 
1 Raymond, Part ii., Chap. iv. 

72 Catharine of Siena. 

harsh measures might prove a sahitary cure for them. 
Eaymond came to the spot, and found two or three of 
her female friends bending over her under the burning 
rays of the noonday sun, weeping, chafing her hands, 
and waiting for her return to consciousness. Catharine 
herself never spoke of this or any ill-treatment she re- 
ceived. During this time she also suffered much in health, 
especially from severe headache, and a continual and some- 
times violent pain in her side, accompanied by extreme thirst. 
Catharine was the first young girl who had ever been 
enrolled as a sister of St. Dominic. She was not much more 
than sixteen when she first appeared on her errands of mercy 
in the garb of a Mantellata. From the age of eighteen to 
twenty she became constantly engaged more and more in 
many and varied active labours and offices of charity. The 
courage and originality of mind required in her time to set 
aside the maxims of traditional propriety were beyond what 
we can at this day easily imagine. Among the Greeks and 
Komans in ancient times, the highest praise that could be 
bestowed on a woman was that " she was never seen out of 
her own house," and the Christian tradition had been so 
far in accordance with the heathen one : the Apostle had 
commanded that the young women should be " keepers 
at home." Monastic ideas and customs in the middle 
ages had strengthened this tradition in prescribing but 
one alternative for the young maiden, marriage or the 
cloister. Yet despite the minute directions of the Apostle 
Paul, wise and prudent, no doubt, for the state of the 
society in which he lived, the germs of all true free- 
dom which dwelt in the doctrine and teaching of Christ 
slowly became fruitful in this direction, and to those who 

Acts the part of a Peace-maker. 73 

waited upon God, as Catharine did, for direct personal 
guidance, the path before them gradually widened into 
greater freedom, and the sphere of responsibility and duty 
presented itself more largely, and was judged by them 
more courageously and directly, apart from conventional 

It is not to be wondered at, however, that even in repub- 
lican and liberty-loving Siena the conduct of the youthful 
Mantellata should have been severely judged ; there can be 
no doubt that the discipline this severe judgment involved 
for Catharine led her more fully to know herself and her 
motives, while it fortified her character. She had already 
begun to act, in stormy scenes, the part of a peace-maker. 
During the revolution of 1368, the artisans, as Ave have 
seen, were often at variance with their employers ; Catha- 
rine on several occasions sought to reconcile the contending 
parties and to persuade each to make concessions ; she was 
also frequently entreated by the wives of banished nobles 
to visit them in their chateaux near Siena, to advise in 
difficulty and console in adversity. Full of loving kindness 
and simplicity of purpose, she obeyed all such calls Avithout 
hesitation. One of her contemporaries records that he 
" had seen her address a multitude of tAvo thousand persons 
in the streets," beseeching them for the love of Jesus to be 
at peace Avith each other, and to search each one his own 
heart to discover there any lurking egotism, and give up 
any selfish demand Avhich could only be gratified at the 
expense of his neighbour. "Those Avho could not hear 
her voice Avere moved even to tears by the beaming 
charity and sweetness of her countenance while she spoke 
and pleaded." 

74 Catharme of Siena. 

The first intimation Catharine received that evil reports 
were circulated against her was from the mouth of a poor 
beggar woman called Tecca, whom she nursed when deserted 
by everyone else. Tecca was a leper, and had been con- 
demned, as was the custom, to be carried outside the walls 
of the city to a kind of pest-house. Catharine heard of it 
and the tears filled her eyes; she exclaimed, "This dear 
one also was redeemed by my Saviour. He loves her ; she 
shall not be cast forth thus." She had her placed in a 
hospital where she herself waited on her till she died. This 
poor ignorant woman, however, ill-requited her benefac- 
tress. Catharine was a few minutes late one morning in 
arriving at the hospital. Tecca lost her temper and taunted 
her, saying, "Good morning, my lady, queen of the Con- 
trada d'Oca ; you love to stay all day in the church of the 
Dominican friars, don't you ! it is there you waste your 
time, my fine lady; you are never tired of those dear friars!" 
A sudden blush covered Catharine's face, for she heard 
in the poor woman's words an echo of what was falling 
from many idle or spiteful tongues ; but she kept silence 
and continued to minister to the leper to the last. Much 
more serious were the reproaches of Andrea, one of the 
Sisters of St. Dominic, who also was tenderly nursed by 
Catharine when dying of a frightful cancer. The disease 
was so repelling that no one could be found to wait on 
Andrea. As soon as Catharine knew tliis, "she compre- 
hended that God had reserved for hei- this poor forsaken 
one, and hastened to comfort her." According to liay- 
mond, "the devil blinded this afflicted woman, and so 
far succeeded in filling her with malice against Catharine 
that she publicly calumniated her ; " she was, however, 

Assailed by Slander. 75 

only the exponent of the injurious opinion which had 
been gaining strength in many minds against the young 

These slanders gained ground so much that the elder 
and more experienced of the Sisters of St. Dominic formed 
themselves into a kind of committee of inquiry to examine 
into the matter. Some of the sisters addressed to Catharine 
during the inquiry very cruel and cutting remarks ; at last 
the chief among them requested her to reply and say how 
it was that she had suffered herself to be seduced. Catharine 
replied patiently and gently, "I assure you, ladies and dear 
sisters, that by the grace of Jesus Christ, I am innocent. 
I am, indeed I am, a virgin." She appears to have taken 
this trial less to heart than many others which assailed her ; 
yet she was observed to dwell more alone at this time in 
her secret chamber, and to be constantly in prayer. Her 
friend Alessia, who always maintained her part, overheaid 
her in prayer, pleading thus with her Lord : " Thou 
knowest, my Saviour, the efforts of the ' father of lies ' 
to hold me back from what thy love urges me to undertake; 
help me, then, my Lord and my God, for thou knowest 
I am innocent ; and suffer not the evil one to prevail 
against me." Having poured out her soul to God, "her 
Saviour appeared to her, holding two crowns, one of gold 
and another of thorns, and bidding her choose which she 
would. She took the crown of thorns and pressed it on 
her own head. After this time she was filled with a 
greater joy than ever, and her countenance was always 
radiant and covered with smiles, so that all men won- 
dered at her secret joy, seeing how many pains and trials 
she had." 

76 Catharine of Siena. 

Palmerina, a distinguished lady of Siena, had publicly 
consecrated all her great wealth to God, and joined the 
sisterhood of St. Dominic. She had a noble nature, but 
a strange jealousy of Catharine entered her mind, and, 
yielding to it more and more, she became like one possessed. 
So great was her hatred of Catharine that she could not 
hear her name mentioned without becoming violent, and 
took every occasion of speaking against her. The fact 
became notorious, and Catharine frequently heard men 
speak of it. It filled her with grief ; she shut herself up in 
her room, and had recourse, as always, to prayer. "Lord 
God," she said, " wilt thou suffer that I should be the 
oqpasion of loss to a soul which thou hast created so nobly 1 
Is this the good that thou hast promised to effect by me t 
No doubt my sins have been the cause of it, but I will con- 
tinue to claim thy mercy for my sister, till thou savest the 
soul of that beloved one from sin and death." Her prayers 
were heard. Palmerina sent for her, and with a changed 
heart and an abundance of generous tears, asked her for- 
giveness. Moreover, she would not rest until she had 
proclaimed publicly her error, and the blamelessness of 
Catharine. Catharine had been impressed by seeing this 
generous soul under so dark a cloud, so distorted and dis- 
figured, so to speak, by malign influences ; and she prayed 
earnestly that God would grant to her the special favour 
of being able in future, under all circumstances, to see 
spiritually the oeauty of every human soul, and to discern 
the truth through all exterior appearances. " Thus she, 
giving thanks to God, humbly prayed with her whole 
heart that he would grant her the favour that she might 
always see the beauty of the soul of everyone who con- 

Controversy loith Society. 77 

versed with her, in order that she might thus be the more 
fired to procure their salvation."^ She added, when re- 
counting these things to Raymond, " Father, could you 
but see the beauty of a rational soid, you would sacrifice 
your life a hundred times, were it necessary, for its salva- 
tion." From this time she showed a wonderful discernment, 
and was able to see the truth concerning those who came to 
her, through all outward disguise or appearances. 

The fault-finding of neighbours, however, did not cease, 
and her confessor, who was at that time Father Thomas 
della Fonte, a reverend and good man, was so far influ- 
enced by all he heard around him as to think it his duty 
to take Catharine severely to task, and to ask her to 
moderate her fasts and her prayers, and to live a little 
more like other people. This seems to have been a great 
addition to her trials. Though she had "learned all 
that she knew from God alone," and w^as accustomed to 
take refuge at all times in prayer, yet she was too dutiful 
and right-minded not to feel troubled by the rebukes of 
her friend and confessor. A long controversy with him 
ended, however, by his admitting that she was right ; he 
said to her, " Henceforth act accordingly to the inspira- 
tions of the Holy Ghost ; for I perceive that (lod will ac- 
complish great things in you." Father Raymond, whose 
narrative is usually dry and tedious, and who seems 
rarely to be carried away by undue enthusiasm, sums up 
his account of these conflicts between Catharine and her 
critics with the following burst of eloquence and honest 
emotion •} " They who surrounded her measured not her 

1 "Acta Sanctorum," BoUandists. 

78 Catharine of Siena. 

■words and deeds by God's rule, but by their own. They, 
dwelling in the valley, presumed to judge of the tops of 
the mountains; they ignored principles, yet discoursed pru- 
dently about results ; they disturbed themselves unreason- 
abl}'', and blamed the rays of that radiant star; they desired 
to direct her whose lessons they themselves could not even 

I will not dwell on the accounts given by her biographers 
of the long internal conflict of that humble courageous 
soul, on the wondrous visions granted to her, and her ever- 
deepening experience of the power of God and of the love 
of Christ, Avhich passeth knowledge. Catharine's own 
Dialogue and letters must be read by those who desire to 
become further acquainted with her inner life, her doctrine, 
and the secret of her sustained communion with God. About 
this time, when emerging from the period of trial arising 
from the narrow criticisms of those Avho did not yet know 
the secret of her power, nor understand the awful simplicity 
of the one sustaining motive of her life, she was admitted 
into a fresh spiritual baptism ; peace, strength, and con- 
fidence were renewed and increased ; she saw, heard, and 
conversed with her Lord; the path she ought to tread was 
revealed, plain and straight before her, and she had only to 
obey that beloved voice which spoke to her heart. " One 
day when she was praying in her little room, the Lord 
appeared to her and said to her, 'Learn, my daughter, that 
henceforth thy life shall be filled with such wonders that 
ignorant and sensual men will refuse to believe them ; 
many even of those who are attached to thee will doubt 
thee; thy heart shall become so ardent for the salvation 
of men that thou shalt forget thy sex and all its fears ; 

Again receives a Commission. 79 

thou shalt no more avoid, as formerly, the conversation of 
men, but thou shalt cheerfully endure every kind of fatigue 
to save their souls ; thy conduct will scandalize many ; but 
be not afraid ; I will be ever with thee, and deliver thee 
from the deceitful tongue and from them that speak falsely ; 
follow, therefore, courageously my inspiration, for I will 
draw, by thy aid, many souls from destruction, and guide 
them to my kingdom in heaven.' " And again, at a time 
when Catharine had been so ill as to believe herself to be 
dying, being absorbed in deep contemplation, Christ said to 
her : " Keturn, my daughter, to life ; for the salvation of 
many souls demands it. Thou shalt no longer live as thou 
hast done ; thou must leave the retirement of thy chamber, 
and continually pass through the city, in order to save souls. 
I will be with thee continually ; in thy going out and in thy 
coming in 1 will lead thee. I will entrust to thee the 
honour of my holy name, and thou shalt speak of me to 
the lowly and the great, to the multitude, to seculars, 
priests, and monks. I will impart to thee speech and wis- 
dom, which none can resist; thou shalt stand before kings 
and rulers and pontiffs for my name's sake ; for thus, and 
by this means, Avill I bring low the arrogance of the 
mighty ! "i 

Catharine answered : " Thou art my God ; I am but thy 
poor handmaid ; may thy will ever be accomplished in me ; 
but remember me, my Lord, and ever incline unto my aid, 
according to the greatness of thy mercy." 

1 "Acta Sanctorum." 


One of the greatest of the evils which prevailed in 
the age in which Catharine lived was the spirit of strife 
and discord which reigned everywhere, not only in the 
country at large, but between rival families and factions 
in every commune and every province. The history of 
the Italian republics is one long record of personal jea- 
lousies, family feuds, and civil wars. It is evident from 
Catharine's letters that she did not shrink from strife and 
conflict in any case where the establishment of true peace 
involved a struggle between opposing principles; yet she 
saw in the actual strife around her only elements which 
were hostile to all true progress towards that advent of 
Christ on earth for which she laboured. She continually 
urged the necessity of war with evil, and in many forcible 
passages in her letters, she reminded the restless and am- 
bitious spirits with whom she pleaded that it was impos- 
sible they should rightly govern others until they had 
learned to govern themselves ; she declared that their 
rivalries, animosities, and lust of power were a sign of 
weakness and not of strength ; while she prophesied to 
them that those among them who were then striving to 
be the greatest would eventually take the lowest position. 

A Minisier to Prisoners and Outcasts. 81 

Her words were very remarkably fulfilled in many in- 
stances. She continually laboured to inspire her own 
chosen friends with a cheerful and holy calm in the midst 
of the political agitations continually renewed around them. 
She wrote to Monna Mitarella, the wife of the Senator 
Mugliano, whose life was in danger during one of the 
Sienese revolutions : " It seems to me you have both been 
in great fear, but that you have placed your hope in God 
and in the power of prayer. I entreat you in the name of 
Jesus to continue firm in this sweet and steadfast peace. 
My sister, fear nothing that men can do ; fear God only." 
To the proud and unhappy wife of Duke Bernabos Visconti 
she wrote beseeching her to exercise a spirit of trust and 
humility, so that the cruel and stormy spirits of those 
among whom she dwelt might recognize the power in her 
of that peace which is founded on the Rock of Ages. She- 
was often called to mediate between hostile families ; she 
visited regularly the prisons of the city, comforted and 
sometimes procured the release of political prisoners, and in 
her walks through the city she would track the steps of 
the poor outcast woman, ask to be allowed to enter her 
dwelling with her, and, embracing her tenderly and frankly, 
would sit down by her side and plead with her concerning 
the beauty of that soul which was in peril of eternal death. 
One of her letters, addressed to "a woman of the city 
who was a sinner," reveals more than any other, perhaps, 
the gift which she had asked, and which had been granted 
to her, of seeing the loveliness of human nature evert in 
its utmost degradation. " I weep, my child, and am full 
of sorrow because thou, created in the image of God, and 
redeemed by the precious blood of Christ, regardest not 


82 Catharine of Siena. 

thy own dignity. Return, I entreat thee, as a daughter 
and a servant redeemed, to the wounded side of the Son 
of God."i The families of the Tolomei and the Malavolti 
have been mentioned in the record of the political troubles 
of Siena. Over both of these families Catharine exercised 
a great influence. The eldest son of the family Tolomei, 
a licentious young man, "whose hand, though so young, 
had been twice imbrued in the blood of his neighbour," 
became, under her influence, a sincere convert, and perse- 
vered in virtue till his death. His two beautiful and 
worldly sisters gave up all the frivolities they had de- 
lighted in, and became active coadjutors of Catharine in the 
" Militia of Jesus Christ." The younger brothers followed 
in the steps of their elder brother and sisters, and their 
gentle mother, Rabes, whose prayers had been unceasing 
for the salvation of her children, called for Catharine and 
blest her, in great joy pronouncing the words : " Now 
lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, for mine eyes 
have seen thy salvation." The house of the Malavolti 
fell under the blight of its own haughty and licentious 
character. Several of Catharine's letters, addressed to 
Agnesa, the widow of Orso Malavolti, reveal the melan- 
choly story of that lady's trials. Her son, Antonio, was 
beheaded in 1372 for a shameful outrage on a young 
girl, in which foul deed he was abetted by his cousin, 
Deo di Veri Malavolti. The widow Agnesa never again 
quitted her solitary home, but she sought for and cherished 

^ "Pcro figliuola mia io piaugo e doglioini che tu, creata alia 
imagine di Dio, ricomperata del pretioso saugue suo, non raguardi 
la tua dignitk. Tu, come figliuola e serva ricomperata di sangue, 
entra allora nelle piaghe del figliuolo di Dio. — Lettera a una 
meretrice, Lett. 373. 

Intercession for the Ening. 83 

the poor girl who had been the victim of her son's 
licentiousness. Catharine writes to the widowed lady : 
" I think God is calling you to a great perfection in thus 
severing you from earthly ties. I understand that you 
have called to you this child. It pleases me much that 
God should have thus chosen you, and drawn her out of 
so much trouble." Another of the family, young Francis 
Malavolti, " a youth of noble birth," says Eaymond, " but 
of contemptible manners," was taken by one of his father's 
friends to visit Catharine. He frequently came to talk 
with her, " enjoyed her salutary lessons, but would return 
to his former habits, especially to gambling, of which he 
was passionately fond." Catharine prayed earnestly for 
his salvation, but he gave her much trouble, and tested 
severely her patience and hoj)efulness. She wrote to him : 
" You come to see me, and then, like an untamed bird, you 
fly back to your vices ; fly as often as you please, but the 
time will come when God will enable me to throw a noose 
round your neck which will prevent your ever escaping 
again." After many warnings to the irresolute youth, 
she concludes : " Come back, come back, my dearest son ! 
I may well call thee dear, so much hast thou cost me 
ia tears, and prayers, and bitter grief." Catharine died 
before her prayer was answered ; but after her death 
Francis gave up his evil habits ; great domestic trials 
subdued his heart, and he became steadfast in the service 
of God. Andrea di Nandino, a rich citizen, "a gambler, 
and addicted to every vice," was induced by the earnest 
entreaties of his wife and children to listen to the words 
of Catharine, but for a very long time he continued hard 
and unmoved. Then Catharine, seeing she could not 


84 Catharine of Siena. 

prevail with him, addressed herself to God alone. She con- 
tinued for a whole night to plead for this soul. " Kemember, 
Lord," she said, "that thou didst promise to aid me in 
saving souls. I have no other joy in life than that of 
seeing them return to thee. Didst thou not, loving 
Jesus, bear this man's sins with ours 1 restore to me 
my brother, and draw him out of his hardened state." 
Andrea was soon after smitten with remorse for his sins, 
and became " a new creature in Christ Jesxis." 

Catharine was spending some hours one day in the house 
of her dearest friend and fellow-worker, Alessia, Avho was 
also a Mantellata. Alessia, happening to look out of the 
window, saw, at a distance, a great crowd approaching, and 
in the midst a cart, in which were chained two notorious 
brigands, who were being taken from prison to the place of 
execution. They were condemned to have their flesh torn 
with hot pincers, and then to be beheaded. The first part of 
the sentence was actually being executed in the sight of the 
multitude, whose shouts mingled with the agonized cries of 
the tortured men. Hearing Alessia's cry of horror, Catharine 
went to the window and looked out. She turned away, and 
fell on her knees, the tears streaming down her cheeks, and 
thus, as Alessia records, she cried to the Lord : " Ah, Lord, 
who art so full of pity, abandon not in their hour of agony 
these poor creatures of thine, redeemed by thy precious 
blood. The thief who was crucified by thy side was visited 
by thy grace and confessed thee publicly, and to him thou 
didst sa)'^, ' This day shalt thou be with me in paradise.' In 
that word thou didst give hope to all who might resemble 
him. Thou didst not abandon Peter when he denied 
thee ; thou didst not despise Mary the sinner, nor Matthew 

Vaniii the Painter. 85 

the publican, nor the Canaanite, but didst invite them to 
thee. I entreat thee by all thy mercies, Lord, hasten to 
relieve these souls." Catharine obtained leave to accompany 
the criminals as far as the city gates ; she prayed and wept 
continually. When the cart containing the criminals halted 
at the city gate, " a ray of divine light penetrated the hearts 
of the two unhappy men ; " they expressed an earnest desire 
to make full confession, and when the man of God came to 
them, they wept and expressed heartfelt sorrow for their 
crimes ; they accused themselves and prayed aloud to the 
Redeemer that he would wash aAvay their sins and receive 
their souls ; they then marched onward to death with 
countenances full of frankness and joy. They spoke gently 
to their executioners, and gave thanks to God ; their 
torturers themselves were deeply affected, and dropped their 
horrid instruments, not daring to continue their cruelties. 

There dwelt in Siena a painter of great genius called 
Vanni. As was so common among his countrymen, he 
harboured a secret hatred against certain persons whom he 
deemed dangerous rivals or enemies, and he had more than 
once satisfied his vengeance by striking in the dark. Several 
assassinations had been perpetrated at his instigation; he 
was wily and hypocritical in his treatment of those who 
tried to mediate between him and the objects of his hatred. 
Catharine heard of him often, and desired earnestly to 
arrest him in his evil course, and to save those who might 
become his victims ; but he carefully avoided her. A 
venerable man. Friar William of England, living in Siena, 
and whose portrait Vanni seems to have painted, pressed 
him much to see Catharine ; he at last consented sullenly, 
refusing to pledge himself to follow any advice she might 

86 CatJiarine of Siena. 

give him. " I myself," says Eaymond, " was at the 
Fullonica, waiting for Catharine, who was occupied some- 
where in the city in the salvation of souls, when Vanni 
arrived. I went to meet him with a glad heart, told him of 
her absence, and pressed him to wait a little ; and, to 
beguile the time, I introduced him into her little room. 
After ten minutes or so, Vanni grew weary, and said list- 
lessly, ' I promised Friar William I would call on this ladj', 
but she is absent, and my work makes it impossible for me 
to stay longer; be so kind as to excuse me to her.' I was 
much distressed at Catharine's absence, and in order to 
detain him I began to speak of reconciliation with one's 
enemies ; but he interrupted me, saying, ' See, now, you 
are a priest and a religious man, and this good lady has a 
great reputation for sanctity ; I must not deceive you, and 
therefore I tell you frankly that I do not mean to do 
anything of the kind which you advise me ; it is useless to 
preach to me on this subject ; you will gain nothing by it. 
It is already a great concession on my part to have spoken 
to you with so much freedom of Avhat I conceal from others ; 
but you will obtain no more ; so do not torment me fur- 
ther on the subject.' At that moment Catharine arrived, 
and her appearance was evidently as disagreeable to Vanni 
as it was welcome to me. As soon as she perceived us 
seated in her room she smiled, and received this man 
of the world with great grace and kindness. She seated 
herself, and inquired the motive of his visit. Vanni 
repeated what he had just said to me, declaring that 
he would make no concession. She represented to him 
with much force and sweetness how much he was his own 
enemy, but he hardened his heart against her arguments. 

Vanni the Painter. 87 

She then retired in order to pray alone, and I conversed 
with Vanni so as to gain time. Not many minutes had 
expired before he looked up and said to me, ' For politeness 
sake I will not refuse her entirely. I have four great 
enmities ; I will give up the one which it will give yon 
the most satisfaction for me to give up.' He then rose 
to go away, but before he had reached the door he 
suddenly exclaimed, ' My God ! what a consolation my 
heart feels through this one word of peace which I have 
uttered ; ' and he added, ' my Lord and my God ! what 
power is it which retains and triiamphs over me 1 Yes, 
I am vanquished — I confess it. I cannot draw my breath.' 
The heart which had been so long bound in the iron 
bonds of hatred and sullen revengefulness was stirred to 
its depths, and struggling to free itself from that cruel 
bondage, it already experienced the sense of approaching 
freedom and peace. Catharine again approached him. 
He fell on his knees sobbing, and said, ' Dear lady, 
behold me ready to do wliatever you desire me relative 
to peace and all else. I see now that Satan held me 
in chains. I resign myself to your guidance : in pity, 
direct my soul.' Catharine regarded him with a joyous 
smile, and gave thanks to God. 'Dear brother,' she 
said, ' I spoke to you, and you refused to listen ; then 
I turned to God, and he has not rejected my petition.'" 
Vanni went straightway and was . reconciled with all 
his enemies. " For many years after this," (continues 
Raymond), " I was Vanni's confessor, and am witness that 
he made constant progress in virtue, and that he bore with 
resignation some sore trials which befel him through the 
hostility of others." 

88 Catharine of Siena. 

Catharine's labours were so much increased that the 
Pope, Gregory XL, to whom a report had been convej^ed of 
her good influence, granted to her, by a special bull, three 
companions, invested with the powers reserved to bishops, 
to accompany her in all her missions, to hear confessions, 
and to aid her in her work. One of these was the good 
and honest Raymond, so often quoted, an indefatigable 
labourer, a simple-hearted Christian, and an excellent man 
of business. Every evening after her day's work was over, 
Catharine, says Raymond, went up the hill, rejoicing, to the 
old Dominican church, and laid at the feet of her Lord and 
Saviour the spiritual conquests of the day ; and there she 
would remain till the sun had set, and the stars lighted the 
sky, absorbed in the contemplation of the love and power 
of Christ, and pouring out her soul in prayer for the fuller 
accomplishment of the great promise of the Redeemer, the 
descent of the Holy Spirit on all flesh. " Breathe on these 
slain and they shall live," she cried ; and when, in answer 
to her prayers, there was " a shaking " among the multitude 
for whom she prayed, she asked again that this multitude 
might "stand upon their feet, an exceeding great army;" 
and the divine breath was felt, and many that were 
spiritually in their graves came forth. " I have seen," 
says Raymond, " thousands of men and women hastening 
to her from the tops of the mountains and from all the 
country round Siena, as if summoned bj^ a mysterious 
trumpet : frequently she was obliged to speak to a great 
number of people at once ; sometimes her words did 
not reach them, but her very look and presence made 
them desire to renounce their sins and become sharers 
in the deep peace and joy which shone in her dear face." 

The Maliitude gathers round her. 89 

" We worked all day," Raymond says, " we heard the con- 
fessions of men and women, soiled with every variety of 
crime. We sometimes remained fasting until the evening 
(having no time to eat) and yet we were not able to receive 
all who came. I acknowledge, to my shame, that the mul- 
titude was often so great that I was fatigued and depressed ; 
but as for Catharine, she never interrupted her prayers and 
efforts, but rejoiced continually in conquering souls for 
her Master, while she simply recommended her friends, 
(Alessia and the other Mantellatas,) to take care of us and 
our material Avants, while we held the nets which she knew 
so well how to fill. The sight of her consoled us greatly, 
and made us forget our fatigues." 

Some years after the revolution of 1368, which inaugu- 
rated the government of the Reformers, the Sienese repub- 
licans, wearied and impoverished by internal strife, too 
easily allowed themselves to fall under the rude domina- 
tion of certain proud and ambitious plebeians, who sought 
out, by means of a system of espionage, all whom they 
suspected of disloyalty to their persons and government, 
and made use of their administrative powers to secure 
their condemnation. Agnolo d'Andrea Avas condemned 
to death for not having invited these tyrants to a fete 
which he gave in the environs of the city. Catharine was 
present at his execution, to impart strength and consola- 
tion to the victim ; returning to her cell, she was aroused 
by the rushing movement of a crowd, in pursuit of the 
Senator Mugliano, whose conduct during the execution 
had offended the majesty of the plebeian leaders and 
whose life was now threatened. She went boldly forth to 
calm, if possible, the multitude, and followed the senator 

90 Catharine of Siena. 

to his hiding-place to strengthen his faith and rally his 
courage. The letters to the wife of this Senator Mugliano 
have already been alluded to. 

A young knight of Perugia, named Nicola Tuldo, was 
accused at this time of having spoken against the govern- 
ment, and of having incited his friends at Siena to revolt 
against their haiighty and oppressive rule ; he was declared 
guilty of high treason and condemned to die. Indignant, 
or rather enraged at this unjust and cruel sentence, the 
poor young man paced up and down his prison like a caged 
lion, driven to desperation. He was too proud to humble 
himself and ask pardon ; his turbulent and passionate soul 
had carried him far away from the early instructions in 
virtue which he had received, and now, proud, wayward, 
and sullen, he was left without a ray of hope or Christian 
consolation. During his stay at Siena he had often heard 
the name of Catharine. "Perhaps," he said to himself, 
" this poor girl might save me ; they tell wonderful things 
of her conquests of faith and charity ; she would pity me, I 
am sure she would, and if I must die, I so young, if I must 
leave this life so i\\\\ of brilliant hope for the future, if I must 
leave my beloved mother and family at Perugia — Perugia ! 
my country." . . . His jailer, who overheard his broken 
utterances, sent a messenger to the Fullonica to ask if 
Catharine would come. The rest of the story is told by 
Catharine herself, in a letter to Eaymond, then absent 
from Siena. (It is one of the very few letters in which 
she mentions her own acts.) " I went to visit him whom 
you know ; he was very much comforted and consoled ; 
he saw Friar Thomas, and confessed, full of humility. 
He besought me by the love of God to promise that I 

Execidion of Nicola Tuldo. 91 

would be with him at the hour of execution ; I promised, 
and I have kept my promise. In the morning, before the 
bell of the Campanile had sounded, I was with him in the 
prison ; he was greatly comforted by my arrival. I went 
with him to the holy communion, which till then he hud 
never received. He was perfectly submissive to the will of 
God, and the only cloud which now rested on his soul was 
the fear that lie might not be strong at the last moment. 
But the Savioiu* in his infinite mercy so fortified him, and 
so inspired him with the desire of his presence, that he con- 
tinued to repeat without ceasing, ' Lord, be near me ; Lord, 
do not leave me ; if thou wilt be near me, all will be well 
with me, and I shall be content ;' and as he prayed thus 
he leaned his head upon my breast. I felt a great desire to 
shed my blood, with him, for ray beloved Saviour. Long- 
ing for this joy, and perceiving that he still had some fear, 
I said, ' Courage, my brother beloved, we are soon going to 
your heavenly marriage feast ; you are going there bathed 
in the precious blood of the Son of God, and with the dear 
name of Jesus on your lips— pronounce that name without 
ceasing — and I am going to meet you at the place of execu- 
tion.' At these words, (think of it, dear father,) every 
vestige of fear seemed to leave him, and a great light visited 
his heart : he who had before raged and rebelled, now 
called the place of justice a holy place ; he seemed filled 
with exultation, and asked, ' How comes such grace to be 
shown to me? and will you, joy of my soul, indeed await 
me at that holy place ! 1 will go there then with a 
strong and joyous step, and you will there speak to me 
sweet and blessed words of the love of God ] Observe, 
father, how changed he now was, to call the place of 

"92 Catharine of Siena. 

execution a holy place. I went then, to the place of 
execution, early, and continued without ceasing to pray. 
Before the arrival of the melancholy cortege, I kneeled 
down and placed my neck on the scaffold, wishing for 
that martyrdom for myself ; but the axe did not respond 
to my Avishes ! I prayed earnestly that at the supreme 
moment light and peace might he abundantly shed into 
the heart of Nicola ; and resting on the promise, * If ye 
abide in me, ye shall ask ivhat ye tcill, and it shall be 
done,' I asked further that the favour might be granted 
to me of seeing in a vision his soul ascend to God. My 
heart was so full, and so powerful was the impression 
granted to me that this promise would be fulfilled to me, 
that in the midst of that vast crowd of people I saw no 
one, and heard nothing but the promise. Then Nicola 
arrived, walking like a gentle lamb, and laughed for joy 
when he saAv me : he turned to me, and asked me to 
make on his breast the sign of the cross ; I did so, say- 
ing in low voice : ' Go, gentle brother, to your eternal 
marriage ; soon you will have entered into the life which 
knows no ending.' He kneeled down calmly, and I, 
kneeling by his side, placed his neck on the scaffold, and 
whispered to him of the Immaculate Lamb. His lips 
murmured but two words, ' Jesus' and 'Catharine.' ^ As he 
spoke these words, the axe fell, and I caught his head in 
my hands. I closed my eyes, and said, ' Lord, / will ; 
thou hast promised me what I will ;' and as clear as the 
daylight I saw the Son of God receive into his bosom this 
dear soul ; full of love and mercy, he received him who 

1 "La bocca sua non diceva se non Jesu e Catarina," Letter 97. 

Her Niece Eugenia. 93 

had so meekly accepted the death of a criminal, received 
him not for his own works, but for love's sake alone. . . . 
A deep peace fell upon my soul. So dear was that blood to 
me that I could not bear that they should ever wash it off 
my dress, which was all sprinkled with it. I envied him, 
because he had gone on before ; he left us, full of joy and 
love, like a bride, who having reached the bridegroom's 
door, turns and bows her head in thanks and farewell to the 
companions who have accompanied her to the threshold^ 
and enters the home of her beloved."^ 

Catharine dwelt in her native city till she was about 
twenty-five years of age, at which time she undertook tlio 
first of her important missions to other cities ; during this 
period, however, she accomplished several evangelizing jour- 
neys in the country around Siena, and more than once 
visited Monte Pulciano, not far distant from the Lake 
Thrasymene, to visit the sisters of the monastery of St. 
Agnes of Monte Pulciano, where two of her nieces, the 
daughters of her sister Lysa, had been received. To one 
of these, Eugenia, a girl of a gay and easy temperament, 
Catharine wrote many letters. Reproving her on one 
occasion for frivolous conversations of which she had heard 
a rumour, Catharine says : " Take care ; if I hear of it 
again I shall run to you and administer so severe a dis 
cipline that you will never forget it ! Be always self-pos- 
sessed and calm. ... If a stranger asks to see you, 
and your superior wishes you to respond, go and see him, 
in the name of obedience, but waste no time, and show 
yourself as savage as a porcupine ! " 

1 Some passages of this beautiful letter have been omitted, as dis- 
connected with the recital. 

94 Catharine of Siena. 

In 1372 good Giacomo, Catharine's father, died. While 
the family all wept around his bed, Catharine alone re- 
mained calm and even joyful, for she realized the fulness 
of peace into which her beloved father had entered. She 
kissed him, and said, "Blessed be the Lord God for this 
entrance into eternal life. How happy should I be were I 
where thou art now, my father !" 

Then Lapa fell ill, and drew near to death. She was a 
true and simple-hearted Christian, but she dearly loved life, 
and revolted against the thought of dying. She besought 
her daughter to obtain for her the favour of a longer life. 
Catharine, seeing her mother so far from resigned to the will 
of God, and too much devoted to the things of earth, retired 
to her room, and prayed earnestly that her beloved mother 
might live and become more prepared for the kingdom 
of God. The physicians had already pronounced Lapa's 
malady to be past cure ; but she recovered, and lived till 
her ninetieth year. Long before she died she wished and 
prayed for death, and often said that God had " riveted 
her soul to her body." " How many," she said, " of my 
children and grand-children have I followed to the grave ! 
it is I alone who cannot die." 

In 1374 the plague broke out in Siena. Multitudes fell 
dead in the churches and in the streets, as spoiled fruit falls 
from the trees.^ The harvests stood unreaped, and all 
business was arrested. The hoarse cries of the grave- 
diggers (beccamorti) resounded through the streets — "Bring 
out your dead ! " The doors of the houses opened, and 

1 " Morti cadevano a terra a guisa che i pomi fracidi.' — Tommasi, 
History of Hitna, Book x. 

Labours during tlie Plague. 95 

** corpses were seen carried out by other coi'pses ;" some- 
times the priests, and those who carried the dead, sat down 
for a moment of repose, and never rose again. In some 
streets no voice responded to the cry of the beccamoiii ; the 
terrible smell of putrefaction alone signified the presence of 
<leath. The strongest minds were subdued by melancholy 
or fear ; the tribunals were empt}' ; the laws were no longer 
enforced ; at each assembling of the Signory there were fresh 
vacant places, and no one any longer dared to ask the cause 
of absence. Many of the rich and the powerful quitted 
the city and isolated themselves in their country chateaux. 
The conduct of Catharine and her friends the Mantellatas in 
this emergency was sublime ; they devoted themselves to 
the poorest of the stricken population, entering without 
fear the most infected quarters ; they sang hymns of joy 
while wrapping the poor discoloured corpses in their wind- 
ing-sheets ; many of the sisters fell, chilled by the icy hand 
of death, in the midst of their holy work ; " but their com- 
panions, knowing well that they had entered into the 
presence of Jesus, pressed the last kiss on their foreheads, 
and hastened back with increased zeal to their labour of 
love."^ It was during this time of severe trial that some of 
the firmest of Catharine's life-long friendships were begun, 
or more closely cemented. 

It may be well here to gather into a group the principal 
friends, fellow-workers, and disciples of Catharine, so that we 
may realize a little the varied and pleasant character of that 
"mystic family," as it was sometimes called, which went 
forth with her on the great highway of the world, bringing 

1 Chaviu de Malan, Chap. xL 

96 Catharine of Siena. 

hope and blessing to their fellow-men, and leaving foot- 
prints worthy to be traced by those who came after. 

The good Raymond of Capua must be first mentioned ; 
he tells us himself of his introduction to Catharine. " In 
1373 I was summoned to Siena, where I exercised the 
function of lector in the convent of my order, that of 
the Dominicans. I was serving God in a cold and for- 
mal manner, when the plague broke out in Siena, where 
it raged with greater violence than in any other city. 
Terror reigned everywhere. Zeal for souls, which is the 
essence of the spirit of St. Dominic, urged me to labour 
for the salvation of my neighbours. I necessarily went 
very often to the Hospital of la Misericordia. The direc- 
tor of that hospital at that time was Father Matthew of 
Cenni, an attached friend of Catharine. Every morn- 
ing, on my way to the city, I inquired at the Misericordia 
whether any more of the inmates there had been attacked 
with the plague. One day on entering, I saw some of 
the brothers carrying Father Matthew like a corpse from 
the chapel to his room ; his face was livid, and his 
strength was so far gone that he could not answer me 
when I spoke to him. ' Last night,' the brother said, 
' about eleven o'clock, while ministering to a dying person, 
he perceived himself stricken, and fell at once into ex- 
treme weakness.' I helped to lay him on his bed ; . . . . 
he spoke afterwards, and said that he felt as if his head 
was separating into four parts. I sent for Dr. Senso, his 
physician ; Dr. Senso declared to me that my friend had 
the plague, and that every symptom announced the ap- 
proach of death. ' I fear,' he said, ' that the House of 
Mercy (Misericordia) is about to be deprived of its good 

Father Matthew's Recovery. 97 

director.' I asked if medical art could not save him; 'We 
shall see,' replied Dr. Senso, ' but I have only a very faint 
hope ; his blood is too much poisoned.' I withdrew, pray- 
ing God to save the life of this good man. Catharine, how- 
ever, had heard of the illness of Father Matthew, whom 
she loved sincerely, and she lost no time in repairing to 
him. The moment she entered the room, she cried, with a 
cheerful voice, ' Get up. Father Matthew, get up ! This is 
not a time to be lying idly in bed.' Father Matthew roused 
himself, sat up on his bed, and finally stood on his feet. 
Catharine retired ; at the moment she was leaving the 
house, I entered it, and ignorant of what had happened, and 
believing my friend to be still at the point of death, my 
grief urged me to say, 'Will you allow a person so dear ta 
us, and so useful to others, to die V She appeared annoyed 
at my words, and replied : ' In what terms do you address 
me 1 Am I like God, to deliver a man from death V But 
I, beside myself with sorrow, pleaded, ' Speak in that way 
to others if you will, but not to me ; for I know your 
secrets : and / know that you obtain from God whatsoever your 
ask in faith.' Then Catharine bowed her head, and smiled 
just a little ; after a few moments she lifted up her head 
and looked full in my face, her countenance radiant with 
joy, and said : ' Well, let us take courage ; he will not die 
this time;' and she passed on. At these words I banished 
all fear, for I understood that she had obtained some favour 
from heaven. I went straight to my sick friend, whom I 
found sitting on the side of his bed. ' Do you know,' he 
cried, 'what she has done for mef He then stood up and 
joyfully narrated what I have here written. To make the 
matter more sure, the table was laid, and Father Matthew 


98 Catharine of Siena. 

seated himself at it with us ; they served him with vege- 
tables and other light food, and he, who an hour before could 
not open his mouth, ate with us, chatting and laughing gaily. 
Great was our joy and admiration; we all thanked and 
praised God. Nicolas d'Andrea, of the Friar Preachers, was 
there, besides students, priests, and more than twenty other 
persons, who all saw and heard what I have narrated." 

Catharine's prayers brought health to many sick per- 
sons. She believed in the promise, " The prayer of faith 
shall save the sick;" and doubted not its fulfilment in 
answer to earnest prayer, in every case in which that ful- 
filment was for the good of the sufferer and for the glory 
of God. The other methods she employed, besides the 
all-powerful one of prayer, were to persuade the patient 
to make a full confession of sin, then to speak peace to 
his conscience, through faith in Jesus Christ, and to in- 
spire him with a joyous courage and resolution. Physi- 
cians well know how closely connected is bodily health 
with mental conditions ; but most will question the power 
even of the highest faith to arrest the progress of a poison 
actually working in the blood. Into such questions it is 
not my present intention to enter ; my part is to present 
a simple narrative, concerning which those who read may 
draw their own conclusions. After our Lord Jesus Christ 
had ascended to heaven, the first apostles received, to- 
gether with many other spiritual gifts, showered down 
on the day of Pentecost, such gifts of healing, that the 
sick were brought by their friends and laid in the streets 
of Jerusalem, that perchance the shadow only of Peter 
passing by might overshadow them and restore them to 
health and life. No historian of the Church has yet 

Character of Raymond. 99 

ventured to assign an exact date to the cessation of the so- 
called miraculous gifts of healing ; perhaps when we see all 
things more clearly, we shall know that these gifts only- 
ceased in proportion to the decay of the faith which claimed 
and exercised them; and we may be able again by the 
prayer of faith to heal the sick and cast out evil spirits. 

Father Eaymond then recounts how, having fallen ill 
himself through his excessive exertions in the plague- 
stricken city, he crawled to Catharine's house, where not 
being able longer to stand up, he fell prostrate, and lay 
half-conscious till she returned from her labours ; how she, 
placing both her pure hands on his forehead, remained 
absorbed in prayer for an hour and a half, how he fell 
into a peaceful slumber, and how on awaking in perfect 
health, she said to him, " Go now, and labour for the sal- 
vation of souls, and render thanks to the Lord who has 
saved you from this great danger." Eaymond appears 
to have been indebted to his great powers of work, his 
good sense, exceeding uprightness and truth, rather than 
to any remarkable talents or genius, for the position and 
influence he gradually attained in the Church : an honest, 
faithful, sensible and laborious man, he proved to be the 
most useful if not the most inspired of Catharine's helpers. 
He had a habit of questioning all he heard from her 
concerning her revelations, and of frequently reporting 
to her the opinions and criticisms of the world on her 
actions. "People all wonder that you do so and so," he 
said to her, or, " Many are offended with you for such and 
such a thing; might you not modify your austerities, and 
adapt your habits a little more to what the world under- 
stands?" &c., &c. "One day," he says, "I rebuked her 

H 2 

100 Catlmrine of Siena. 

privately for not preventing some persons from bending the 
knee when they approached her ; when she answered me, 
' God is my witness, Father, that I observe very little, 
sometimes not at all, the actions of those who surround me, 
for I am thinking only of their souls.'" He confesses that 
he questioned her severely concerning what God had re- 
vealed to her of the path she ought to pursue, " for I had 
found many deluded people," he says, " especially among 
females, whose heads are easily turned ; and the remarks 
made by people around me troubled me." Catharine 
accepted frankly all his warnings and advice, and he, 
satisfied of her sincerity, soon became far more her disciple 
than her teacher or censor. This he asserts of himself with 
characteristic honesty. In her relations with Raymond, 
the gentle gaiety and sense of humour which Catharine 
possessed, appear more, perhaps, than in other relations. 
She would rally him on account of his too great solemnity 
and gravity on occasions which did not especially call for 
such conditions of mind. He records her great delight in 
talking of the things of God; when she could find a willing 
listener, she would speak much, and rather rapidly, on these 
topics. " While she was actively employed, or spoke of 
heavenly things," says he, " she seemed to be redolent 
with the vigour of youth, and when she ceased, she be- 
came languid and without energy. Often she spoke to me 
of the profound mysteries of God, and as I did not possess 
her sublime elevation of soul, I would fall asleep. But 
she, absorbed in God, would not perceive it, and continued 
talking; and when she discovered me asleep, she would 
arouse me in a louder voice, and gaily rebuke me for thus 
allowing her to converse with the walls." 

Learned Friars. 101 

Father Thomas della Fonte was one of the earliest friends 
of Catharine's youth, and supplied to Raymond the record 
of her life which preceded her acquaintance with the latter. 

Three miles from Siena stood .the ancient monastery 
of Lecceto, where dwelt many good monks who were 
Catharine's friends. William of England, already men- 
tioned, was one of these; his soul was penetrated with 
grief on account of the corruptions of the Church, con- 
cerning which he often held counsel with Catharine during 
her evening visits to the convent, when they sat under 
the shade of the trees. Many of her letters are addressed 
to him, whom on account of his learning and the honours 
he had obtained at Oxford and other universities, she 
called her bachelor (hacceliere). Brother Anthony of 
Nice was another of her friends of Lecceto, as were also 
John Tantucci, a doctor of theology of the University of 
Cambridge ; Felice da Massa, who accompanied her to 
Avignon ; and Girolamo, bursar of Lecceto, a man of an 
ardent and daring temper, whom she calls " the sublime 
madman of the Cross." 

In a secluded hermitage in Vallombrosa there dwelt a 
learned Florentine who had retired from the life of the 
city to devote himself to the study of the Scriptures, and 
to writing. He was familiarly known as " John of the 
Cell." He was advanced in years when he made the 
journey to Siena in order to converse with Catharine, of 
whom he had heard. He became her firm friend and ever 
ready servant. He preserved to his death, and in spite 
of a life of seclusion, a sociable and merry temper ; his 
manners were courteous, and his conversation witty and 
pleasant. The Florentines styled him the new Socrates, 

102 CatJmrine of Siena. 

on account of his wisdom and independence of character.^ 
Many stories were told of his absence of mind ; when en- 
grossed in solving some deep mental problem he would 
stand with uncovered head for hours in the woods or on 
the highway, regardless of the burning sun or falling dew. 
Catharine selected old John of the Cell to carry many of 
her most important despatches to Eome and elsewhere. 
There being no postal communication in those days, 
Catharine was often exercised in mind concerning her 
many letter-carriers. John of the Cell was old, but 
energetic, and his shrewdness, wit, experience, and repu- 
tation for learning made him a fit and trusty messenger 
in negotiations with the Pope and other princes. 

Andrew Vanni, the painter, has been already mentioned. 
In 1378 he was elected "Captain of the people " in Siena. 
Catharine wrote him a long letter, on his election. Chavin 
de Malan styles this letter " a noble Christian lesson in 
political economy." She adjures him to be guided by a 
spirit of justice in all his public life, to allow no narrow or 
contradictory motives to mingle with the great principles 
of justice and love of the people : " the only means to 
preserve peace in thyself, in the city, in the world, is con- 
stantly to guard and maintain holy jtisiice. It is through 
the violation of justice that so many great evils have come 
upon us ; and it is because I so earnestly desire to see 
justice reign in thee and our dear city, that I write thee 
these lines. In order to be a just ruler, justice must first 
reign in thy own conscience ; otherwise thou canst never 
establish it in the State." 

^ " Festivus Sermo, et senectus oppido jucunda, ut alteram 
Socratem diceres." BoUandus, "ActaSanct. " 

Tlie laughing Cecca and other friends. 103 

We shall have to speak presently of the brothers 
Buonconti of Pisa. Many other friends of Catharine 
are known only by name ; they shared her labours, and 
those who survived her strove to immortalize her teaching. 
Among these were Gabriel Piccolomini, Francesco Landi, 
Pietro Ventura, Cenne d'Jacomo, Neri Ugurgieri, Nicolo 
Ugolino, the poet Anastagio di Monte Altino, Masaccio 
the painter, and many others. 

It is not easy to make a selection for special notice 
among the brave women who worked with her, Mantellatas 
and others, so numerous and so devoted were they. The 
Florentine lady, Giovanna Pazzi, was one of the most intelli- 
gent and spiritual of her friends, and a laborious worker foi 
God. Giovanna di Capo we find with her also in Florence 
during the revolution there, of which we shall have to speak. 

The laughing Cecca (ridente) is constantly mentioned by 
Catharine — a bright, merry soul, called sometimes also 
by her friends the " mad " or the " mischievous Cecca." 
Her sallies of wit often enlivened the joui-neys and labours 
of the sisters.^ 

Catharine Ghetti, and Angelina Vanni, sister of the 
artist, may be mentioned ; also the noble and venerable 
Lady Bianchina Salimbeni, widow of John Salimbeni, the 
head of the proud aristocratic family prominent in the 
Sienese revolutions already noticed. 

Catharine, a lover of all children, conceived a great affec- 
tion for a dear little child called Laurencia, the daughter 
of a famous jurist at Siena. This child, when about eight 
years of age, became lunatic, or, as it was then expressed, 

1 Letters 114, 116, &c. 

104 Catharine of Siena. 

possessed of the devil. Her parents had exhausted every 
means within their reach for her recovery. They took her 
to the church of St. Dominic and made use there of every 
relic and charm connected with the saints believed to 
exercise a special healing power over possessed persons ; 
but in vain. Their friends then earnestly advised them to 
take the child to Catharine. They accordingly sought 
Catharine in her own house. Catharine, for the first time, 
I think, in her life, felt fear. It is not permitted to us to 
fathom this trouble of her soul, or the secret of her fear, 
for she kept silence respecting it. She only replied to 
the messengers who came to announce the approach of 
the little possessed one, " Alas ! alas ! What are they 
doing 1 I myself am daily tormented with ihe devil, and 
do they imagine I can deliver others 1 " As the parents 
of Laurencia entered her door, Catharine fled and hid 
herself so effectually in the attic that she could not 
be found, and the poor parents departed, leading away 
their struggling, shrieking little girl. Catharine stopped 
her ears, but the sound had entered her soul, and she 
wept bitterly ; she, however, sternly forbade anyone to 
speak to her of this child, or to mention the subject of 
demoniacal possession. What hidden anguish may have 
lain at the bottom of this apparent cowardice we know 
not ; but even in this she became " more than conqueror" 
through his strength who loved her. Father Thomas 
della Fonte, full of pity for little Laurencia and her 
parents, resorted to the following stratagem : He brought 
the child to Catharine's room when she was out, and 
left her there, saying to the sen^ant, " Tell Catharine 
when she returns that I command her to let this child 

Little Laurencia. 105 

remain near her all night." When Catharine returned, she 
perceived in a moment, by the furious countenance and 
wild cries of Laurencia, that this was the child she had 
refused to see. She saw there was no escape, and kneeled 
down, forcing the child to kneel and pray with her. This 
was no easy task, and the struggle continued all night till 
the morning, Catharine exerting all the force of her will to 
subdue the child, and wrestling in prayer against the evil 
one, till great drops of perspiration fell from her face, and 
her strength was almost exhausted. Early in the morning 
Alessia came in, and saw the end of the struggle, little 
Laurencia lying in a quiet sleep on Catharine's bed, and 
Catharine, with uplifted hands, silently praying still. 
Catharine kept the child for many days, never leaving her, 
instructing, soothing, and teaching her to pray. One day, 
however, having been at the house of Alessia, she found 
the evening so far advanced that she proposed to remain 
there for the night. While quietly conversing with her 
friend, she suddenly paused, arose, and said, "Haste, put 
on your cloak and come with me; the infernal wolf has 
again got hold of the innocent little lamb we had saved." 
Alessia objected that it was not proper for women to go 
out so late at night, alone, to which Catharine only replied, 
"Make haste and come with me." They found the 
child wildly excited and agonized with terror. Catharine 
clasped her in her arms, and with an indignant voice 
exclaimed, "Thou wicked serpent, thou dost think to 
recover thy dominion ! but I have faith in Jesus, my 
Saviour." She then kneeled down and prayed, Alessia 
also praying with her. The child became calm, and some 
days later was restored to her grateful parents. She 

106 Catharine of Siena. 

lived for sixteen years after, Catharine's devoted friend, 
perfectly sane and peaceful.^ 

The people of Siena complained of a prolonged visit 
which Catharine paid to the Lady Bianchina Salimbeni, at 
her home, the Castel Eocca, near Siena. " She stays too 
long," they said ; " it is not right that a daughter of the 
people should remain so long in the house of a Salimbeni ; 
what can a plebeian have to do with that family ? " Catharine 
heard of the popular jealousy on her account, and sent to 
say, " 1 am coming, but not before I have accomplished 
what I have to do here." A fierce feud had arisen between 
two families in the neighbourhood of La Eocca, and she 
undertook to mediate and avert the shedding of blood. 
While absent on this work, Lady Bianchina caused a poor 
lunatic woman who lived near to come to the castle ; she 
knew Catharine's repugnance to the subject of possession, 
and feared to ask her directly to deal with this woman, but 
placed her in the entrance of the castle. When Catharine 
returned, she perceived the poor demoniac, and turned pale, 
saying pleadingly to Lady Bianchina, "May God forgive 
you, lady, for what you have done ! Do you know that I 
myself am often tormented, and how can you expose 
me to risk by leading before me a possessed person ? " 
Catharine, obliged to go out again to finish her work as 
a peace-maker, said sternly to the possessed, " See here ! 
Place your head in this spot exactly, and do not move 
one inch till I return." The possessed obeyed, though 
with piercing cries and sobs. When Catharine returned, 
she found the patient in the same position, though filling 

^ Raymond, Lib, iL, Cap. viii. 

The Lady Bianchina, and Alessia. 107 

the house with her groans and shrieks. Catharine had 
just seen peace concluded between the rival families, and 
returned, wearied and exhausted, to this scene of violence 
of another kind. She appeared angry, and exclaimed, " Get 
up, you wretch ! Hold your peace, and depart for ever 
from this poor creature, so dear to Jesus the Son of God." 
At these words, "Jesus the Son of God," the possessed 
woman fell fainting on the floor, and was carried to a bed. 
In a few minutes she seemed like one awakened out of a 
deep sleep, and calmly asked, " Where am 1 1 How did I 
come here 1 Who are these kind friends ? " " She was 
never troubled again," says Eaymond, who took care to see 
her occasionally for many years after. The Lady Bianchina 
kissed her angelic plebeian guest, with her own hands folded 
the beloved, well-patched little dominican cloak around her, 
and bade her return to Siena, to satisfy those who murmured. 
Of all her women friends, she whom Catharine most 
dearly loved was Alessia. Alessia was very early left a 
widow, and from the time that she became a Mantellata she 
was Catharine's inseparable companion. She was a woman 
of strong good sense, true humility, and ready powers of 
adaptation. It is to her that we are indebted for much 
of Catharine's inner history, for she was sometimes even 
the sharer of her private devotions. It may be asked, 
how it can be known that Catharine used such and such 
words and arguments in prayer as are recorded ? The 
explanation is in the fact that Catharine herself kept a 
record of some of the wonderful answers which were gi^anted 
to her prayers, and of her own pleadings with God ; while, 
at the request of her most intimate friends, she dictated 
from memory a record of much of her soul's experience, 

108 Catharine of Siena. 

including the directions and revelations she received from 
her Lord. Much of this is developed in her book, the 
" Dialogue." Alessia was, moreover, a witness of the travail 
of Catharine's soul in several of those great emergencies when 
she sought the immediate interposition of the divine hand. 

Such were Catharine's friends and companions ; but 
those of Avhom I am about to speak were, in a more 
special sense, her own spiritual children. When the 
question of her canonization first came to be discussed at 
Rome, several of those who had been most intimately 
acquainted with her were requested to write down their 
recollections of her. These documents, sought for in 
vain by the followers of Bollandus for insertion in the 
" Acta Sanctorum," were afterwards found in manuscript 
at the Grande Chartreuse, and published by Dom Martene. 
There is so much freshness and reality in these personal 
notices that I shall here give very briefly the substance 
of portions of them, reserving other portions for the 
later dates to which they refer. The first is that of 
Friar Thomas of Siena. He was very young, he tells 
us, when he first made the acquaintance of Catharine, 
her father, mother, and whole family ; he entered the 
order of the Preaching Friars about the same time that 
she became a Mantellata. " She dwelt near the church of 
the Preaching Friars, and spent the greater part of every 
night in prayer ; when she heard the matin-bell she 
rested ; she constantly exhorted the brothers of St. 
Dominic to give themselves to the Lord ; and concerning 
some who had fallen, she would say to us, '0 let us 
mourn and pray for them — yea, let us mourn over these 
dead ones.' She was exceedingly fond of flowers, and 

Recollections of Friar Thoinas. 109 

delighted in weaving them into crowns, wreaths, and gar- 
lands, which she gave to her friends to remind them of 
the love of the Creator. She often gave me a bouquet. 
She was never idle. When not engaged in prayer or 
active ministrations, she dictated letters to her secretaries. 
Among those whom she called to the faith and service of 
Jesus, were these, known to me : — Gabriel Piccolomini, 
Neri of Landoccio, Christopher Ghanni, who translated her 
' Dialogue ' into Latin, and collected her letters after her 
death ; Stephen Maconi, and Francis Malavolti. I was 
present at the execution of Nicola Tuldo ; Catharine was 
by his side, and caught his head in her hands. Tuldo's eyes 
were fixed on heaven with so firm a gaze that his eyelids 
remained motionless ; the spectators wept, thinking they 
saw in this young man before them a martyr rather than a 
political criminal, and his funeral presented the aspect of a 
solemn religious festival. Catharine was always affable, 
kind, and gladsome, even in the midst of the greatest suffer- 
ings : trials seemed welcome to her. Once a man of God 
came from Florence to examine personally what had been 
told him of her. She was then, on account of severe illness, 
extended on the planks which served her as a bed. To test 
her humility he began to administer to her the most harsh 
and humiliating reproofs. She bowed her head and listened 
submissively, to the end, without changing countenance, 
and assured him that she felt very grateful for what he had 
said. Her visitor exclaimed, after he had left her, ' She 
is pure gold without alloy.' She generally dictated her 
letters and book while walking up and down her room, 
sometimes kneeling down to pray for more light. She 
taught herself to write after she was grown up. Soon 

110 CatJiarine of Siena. 

afterwards sbe wrote to Stephen, ' You must know, dear 
son, that this is the first letter I ever wrote with my own 
hand;' and to Eaymond, ' I wrote this letter myself, for 
God has given me facility in writing, that when I come from 
prayer I may unburden my heart.' She valued much her 
dominican cloak, because in it she had been solemnly con- 
secrated to the service of Christ. * I will never part with 
this dear mantle,' she said ; and whenever the precious 
cloak became worn or had a rent in it, she mended and 
patched it with the greatest care ; the many pieces in it were 
all inserted by her own hand. I took that cloak myself, 
after her death, from Siena to Venice, where it is preserved 
in the Dominican church there. Barduccio, of Florence, 
who was one of her secretaries, was particularly dear to the 
blessed one ; he was with her when she died, in Kome, and 
afterwards returned to Siena, sick, where he died, still very 
young, with a smile on his face." 

Friar Bartholomew, of Siena, was a pupil of Thomas 
della Fonte, who often took him with him to visit Catha- 
rine at the Fullonica. He afterwards accompanied her on 
her missions to Pisa, Lucca, Genoa, Avignon, Florence, 
and Rome. He also says of her, that " she was very fond 
of lilies, roses, violets, and all flowers, and used to make 
them up into superb wreaths and bouquets. Her com- 
panions were young maidens like herself, wearing the 
mantle of St. Dominic. I often saw them sitting weaving 
flowers and singing together. When I began visiting her 
in the house, she was young, and always wore a smiling 
countenance ; I also was young ; but I never experienced 
any trouble in her presence. On the contrary, the more 
I conversed with her, the more I became in love with all 

Recollections of Friar Bartholomew. Ill 

the stern virtues. I knew many young laymen and monks 
who used to visit her, and they all experienced impressions 
similar to mine ; the sight of her, and all her conversations, 
breathed angelic purity. Her eloquence was wonderful, 
and great multitudes of men and women flocked to hear 
her preach. Ignorant people asked, 'Whence comes so 
much knowledge, seeing she has never been to school V 
Some thought the Friar Preachers had taught her, but, 
on the contrary, it was she who taught them. Frequently 
she dictated to two or three secretaries at once, and 
that without any hesitation or confusion. She told me 
of the command she had received from the Lord, after 
she had remained so long in prayer that her soul was 
separated from her bodj'^, and she was caught up to his 
presence. God then said to her, 'I have appointed thee, 
my daughter, to a new manner of life. Thou shalt travel ; 
thou shalt go from city to city as I will indicate to thee ; 
thou shalt live with the multitude, and speak in public : 
I will send some to thee, and I will send thee to others, 
according to my good pleasure. Be thou ever ready to do 
my will.'i 

"I never saw the least shade of melancholy in her 
countenance, which was always cheerful, and even merry. 
When the pain in her side tortured her cruelly, and hin- 
dered her from rising, her friends pitied her, and said, 

1 Deposition of Bartolommei di Dominic! di Siena, given Oct., 
1412, received and written out by Adama (Notary) with all requisite 
formalities, sent to the Bishop of Venice, and deposited afterwards 
in the library of the Grande Chartreuse at Grenoble. The words 
are exactly translated, as given by Bartolommei from Catharine's 
own mouth. This deposition was also copied by Tomaseo Petra, 
Secretary to the Pope. 

112 Catharine of Siena. 

' Mother, how you are suffering ! ' She would smile and 
say, ' 1 feel a gentle trouble in my side ; ' and she would 
add, * I think I know how my Lord suffered when one of 
his hands was already nailed, and they drew the other arm 
with such violence that his ribs were disjointed.' When- 
ever she spoke of the martyrs, her face would flush and her 
eyes gleam, and she would spread out her white robe, and 
smilingly say, ' 0, how lovely it would be if it were all 
stained with blood for the love of Jesus ! ' Till the last 
years of her life our Lord granted me the grace of being 
united to her by the bonds of a pure and holy affection." 

It is from Friar Bartholomew that we have the account 
of the influence of Catharine with a venerable nobleman 
of Siena, called Francis, but whose family name he con- 
ceals. This gentleman was more than eight}^ years of 
age, when Alessia, who had married his son, and who 
now in her widowed state lived in the house of her father- 
in-law, besought Catharine to see and converse with him. 
To facilitate this, she begged Catharine to become her 
guest for some weeks in winter, in order that in the 
long evenings she might have opportunities of conversing 
with him. Catharine found the old nobleman very hard 
and worldly, as he had been indeed all his life; at first 
he mocked, and turned to laughter her efforts with him ; 
but at last, he " yielded to the fire of her discourse," and 
said : " I am determined to confess and to pray ; but I 
must tell you that I bear a deadly hatred against a cer- 
tain prior, and intend if I can to kill him." Catharine 
said " such affecting things to him concerning this prior," 
that at last he exclaimed : "I will do whatever you order 
me ; speak, then ; I obey." Catharine, kneeling before him, 

The old Knight and the Falcon. 113 

then said, " For the love of our Lord and Saviour Jesus 
Christ, I beseech you, dear father, to forgive this prior, 
and to go and be reconciled to him." He promised, and 
before sunrise on the morrow he took a splendid falcon of 
which he was very fond, and bent his steps, alone, to the 
church at which the prior officiated. The prior, seeing his 
enemy enter, immediately fled ; but the old man sent a 
canon after him to assure him that he had come to bring 
him good news, and not to injure him. The prior, on 
hearing that Francis was alone and unarmed, surrounded 
himself with many friends, and then permitted his visitor 
to be introduced. Francis, with his falcon on his wrist, 
bowed low, and said, " The grace of God has touched my 
heart, and I am come to offer to be reconciled with you ; 
and in proof of my sincerity, I beg your acceptance of this 
falcon, which is my great pet." The prior, in astonish- 
ment, accepted peace, and Francis, returning to Catharine, 
said, " I have obeyed your orders ; now what else shall I 
do % " Catharine begged him to see and converse with one 
of the most fervent of the Fathers of St. Dominic, who 
refrained from imposing any penance upon him, for "he 
was very aged, and in great indigence, although he was 
noble." The only penance which Catharine prescribed 
was that he should pray very earnestly ; and he who had 
scarcely ever in his life entered a church, now rose early 
every day, and walked in silence to the cathedral, where 
he passed pi'olonged hours at the foot of the cross. This 
child-like and teachable old disciple continued ever faith- 
ful ; and full of love and charity to all men, in a few years 
he slept peacefully in God. 

The same witness also records the story of the conver- 

114 Catharine of Siena. 

sion of Lazarini. Lazarini was a learned man, and pro- 
fessor of philosophy at Siena; his lectures were brilliant, 
and attracted crowds of pupils. He was one of the severest 
critics of the life of Catharine, and openly attacked her 
character. He resolved to pay her a visit, thinking to find 
material for further condemnation. He repaired to her 
house one day, at the hour of vespers. " He asked me 
to go with him," says Bartholomew, "and I consented, 
believing he would repent of his motive. We entered her 
room ; Lazarini sat down on a chest, and Catharine on the 
floor at his feet ; I remained standing. After some moments 
of silence, Father Lazarini began : ' I have heard many 
persons speak of your sanctity, and I have been anxious tQ 
visit you, hoping to hear something edifying and consol- 
ing to my soul ! ' Catharine, who understood him perfectly, 
promptly replied : ' And as for me, I am rejoiced at your 
arrival, for I desire an opportunity of profiting by that 
learning with which you daily delight your numerous 
disciples.' She paused, showing no disposition to impart 
anything. This interchange of empty compliments con- 
tinued for some time, and as the night was coming on, 
Father Lazarini said: 'I see it is late; I must go; I will 
return at a more suitable hour.' As he arose, Catharine sin- 
cerely commended herself to his prayers, and he, as a matter 
of form, asked her also to pray for him, which she cheerfully 
promised to do. He went away, thinking that Catharine 
might be a good person, but that she was far from deserv- 
ing her great reputation." Early the following morning, 
when he arose to study the subject he was to explain 
to his pupils that day, he felt a great oppression at his 
heart, and involuntarily began to weep. When they 

Professor Lazanni. 115 

called him at the hour of the class, he could not speak to 
his pupils. Returning to his room, he became indignant 
with himself : " What ails me 1 " he said ; " this is too 
absurd ! Is my mother dead ? or has my brother fallen 
in battle ? " The day passed, and the second morning 
came, and yet the sadness continued ; he then began to 
desire to converse with Catharine again. The sun was 
scarcely risen when he again knocked at the door of her 
room, in a very diflferent frame of mind from that in 
which he first visited her. Catharine, who had never 
ceased to pray for him, and who knew what her Lord had 
done, opened the door gladly. They had a long interview, 
at the end of which Professor Lazarini conjured her to direct 
him in the way of salvation. Overcome by his instant 
entreaties, she at last said : "The way of salvation for yaa 
is to despise the world, its vanities and its smiles, and to 
become humble, poor, and destitute, like our Lord Jesus, 
and like the blessed St. Francis." Lazarini saw that 
she had read his heart; for he had loved the world' 
and its favours and pleasures. He went home, distributed 
his money and costly furniture, and even his books, 
reserving only such as were necessary to aid him in his 
lectures, and became truly poor, and a follower of our 
Redeemer. From this time his pupils increased in numbers ; 
for to his learning and eloquence there was now added a 
kindliness and humility which won for him the affection as 
well as the admiration of those who heard him. 

Stephen Maconi, a young nobleman of Siena, also 
wrote down his personal recollections of Catharine, at 
the time when her canonization was proposed. He says : 
*' I must confess that, though a citizen of Siena, neither 

I 2 

116 Catharine of Siena. 

I nor my family became acquainted with Catharine and her 
relatives previous to the year 1376. At that time I was 
engrossed with the business and pleasures of life, and had 
no idea whatever of becoming acquainted with her. Our 
family were then at open war with a family more powerful 
than our own, and it seemed impossible ever to come to any 
agreement, notwithstanding the repeated efforts of honour- 
able citizens to act as mediators. Catharine had then a great 
reputation in Tuscany, especially as a reconciler of hostile 
persons and tribes. I was told that she could certainly 
obtain peace for us, if I asked her. I paid her a visit, and 
she received me, not as I had expected, with the bashful 
timidity of a young maiden, but with the tenderness of a 
sister towards a brother who had been absent on a long 
journey. I was perfectly astonished, and listened eagerly to 
her when she engaged me to repent and live like a good 
Christian. I said to myself, ' digitus Dei est hie' When 
I explained the object of my visit, she said without 
hesitation, ' Go, my son, trust in the Lord ; I will do all in 
my power to bring about a reconciliation.' " 

The enemies of the Maconi were the Tolomei and the 
Rinaldini. Catharine fixed a day for the reconciliation, 
in the church of St. Christopher ; but the pride of these 
two families would not yield, and they failed to keep the 
appointment. When Catharine was informed of it, she 
said, " The}' will not listen to me ; but whether they will 
or no, they will be obliged to listen to God." She went 
to the church, where she expected to find Stephen, his 
father, and his other relatives. There she kneeled down 
before the altar, and oiFered up instant prayer to Heaven. 
While she was praying, those who had refused to be 

Stephen Maconi. \\1 

reconciled entered the church, unknown to each other. 
"God had brought them there." They paused at the 
sight of Catharine kneeling in prayer, unconscious of their 
presence. While standing silently for some minutes, it 
seemed to all the members of those rival families that the 
Spirit of God, the Spirit of peace and goodwill, descended 
upon them ; they were vanquished, and ready to give up 
all their animosities. They charged Catharine with the 
arrangement of the conditions of peace, and became per- 
fectly reconciled. 

Stephen was one of the members of a confraternity which 
held its meetings for religious exercises in a subterranean 
room of a church at Siena. On one of these occasions he 
suffered himself to be drawn into a conspiracy against the 
government, planned in this room. Catharine discovered it, 
and said to him, " Stephen, my son, what evil are you 
plotting in your heart ] Is it thus that you change the house 
of God into a workshop for treason 1 What a stupid pro- 
ject 1 and for this you risk the loss both of your soul and 
body." Stephen repented of his design, and perceived that 
there were many things of which he must purge himself in 
order to become worthy of Catharine's friendship. Stephen 
continues : " I now visited her often, and by the intluenco 
of her words and examj^le, I felt within me a blessed 
change. She one day asked me to write some letters for 
her at her dictation. I accepted with joy, and as I con- 
tinued to record her thoughts and advice in this way, my 
heart became inflamed with the love of God, and filled with 
contempt for the things of this world. I was also so 
filled with shame for my past life, that I could not bear 
to think of it. This change, of course, appeared outwardly, 

J 18 Catharine of Siena. 

and nearly all the city was in astonishment, A little 
while after, Catharine said to me when we were alone, 
' You will presently see, Stephen, that the dearest wish 
of your heart will be accomplished.' Her words amazed 
me, for I was not conscious that I now wished for any- 
thing at all in this world, and I said, * What is that dearest 
wish 1 ' She replied, ' Look into your own heart, and see.' 
I said, 'My very dear mother, I do not find there any 
greater desire than that of ever remaining near yon.' She 
answered at once, ' It shall be fulfilled.' For myself, I 
could not understand how that could be, without violating 
the rules of propriety, for I thought of the great difference 
there was in our rank and outward circumstances ; but He 
to whom nothing is impossible, willed that she should be 
sent to Avignon, and then, notwithstanding my great un- 
worthiness, I was chosen to travel in her company. I quitted 
with joy my father, my mother, my brothers and sisters, 
and all mj' kindred, so happy was I to serve her.^ It will 
be seen that for several years I had very intimate relations 
with Catharine, because I wrote her letters. She also con- 
sulted me about her thoughts and movements, and dictated 
to me a portion of her book. She loved me with the tender- 
ness of a mother, and indeed far more than I deserved ; 
consequently several of her disciples conceived a strong 
sentiment of jealousy. I studied with the greatest care her 
life and actions, and I declare, on my soul and conscience, 
and before God and the Church militant, that I have 

1 Letter of Stephen Maconi to Fra d* Antonio, of the Convent of 
SS. John and Paul in Venice, and afterwards found in the library 
of the Grande Chartreuse. 

NicJwlas dei Smr acini. 119 

been intimately acquainted with several great servants of 
God, but have never seen anyone of so exalted a virtue. 
I never heard a frivolous word from her lips. She suffered 
constantly from ill-health and pain, but never did a shadow 
of trouble overcast her face ; never did she utter a word 
which might indicate anger or impatience ; and this last is 
assuredly a mark of high perfection."^ 

I shall return later to the narrative of Stephen. It re- 
mains only to notice briefly a venerable disciple of Catharine, 
whom she called " My Lord Nicholas dei Sarracini," an 
old soldier who had achieved glorious exploits on the battle- 
field, and whose pious wife continually urged him to con- 
fession and a godly life. He remained long indifferent to 
all her pleadings. One morning, however, he said to her, 
" I saw in a dream last night that lady of whom you so 
constantly speak to me, Catharine of the Contrada d'Oca ; 
let us go and speak with her." Catharine, from her know- 
ledge of the human heart, spoke to the old knight in such 
a manner that he affirmed " she told me all things whatso- 
ever I did ; " he learned to pray, and became a humble 
believer. In about a year from this time he died in great 
peace. This concludes the notice of the principal friends 
and fellow-workers of Catharine. 

* Letter of Stephen Maconi to Fra d' Antonio. 


The plague had subsided in Siena. The report of Catharine's 
devoted labours among the stricken people having reached 
Pisa, many of the inhabitants of that city expressed a strong 
desire to see her. They therefore sent a deputation to Siena 
to entreat her to pay them a visit, promising, in order the 
more to attract her, that her presence would be profitable to 
many erring souls. Catharine, suspecting her own instinc- 
tive love of journeying and adventure, hesitated for some 
time ; but after taking counsel with her divine guide, and 
talking the matter over -with Raymond, she set out, ac- 
companied by several fathers of St. Dominic, including 
Raymond himself, by her mother, Lapa, and by three or 
four of the most devoted of the Mantellatas. She was hos- 
pitably received at the house of the brothers Buonconti, 
merchants. It was a beautiful evening in the month of 
June, 1375, when this faithful little band of pacific con- 
querors entered Pisa and crossed the well-known Piazza, 
where those four striking monuments, the Baptistery, the 
Cathedral, the Leaning Tower, and the Campo Santo, at 
that time almost modern, had been irregularly scattered 
by the hand of genius.^ Catharine paused to gaze for 

' Chavin de Malan. 

Visit to Pisa. 121 

the first time, on these great masterpieces, and over the 
plain beyond, sweeping towards the mountains which rise 
between Pisa and Lucca. At Lucca, she and her companions 
had tarried several days ; she was there a sufficient time to 
add a group of disciples in that city to the "mystic family," 
now greatly increasing in numbers and strength. Gerard 
Buonconti, at Pisa, came forth with a goodly company to 
meet Catharine and her friends, and conduct them to the 
apartments prepared for them. In this company there were 
many of the Mantellatas of Pisa; there was the archbishop, 
Francis Moricotto di Vico ; Peter Gambiacorti, the signore, 
or chief of the government of the republic of Pisa, lead- 
ing by the hand his little daughter Tora, who afterwards 
became the Mother Clara of happy memory in the annals 
of the Church; Bartolomeo Serafini of the Carthusians, 
and others. There were Dominicans, solitaries from the 
hills, artizans, merchants, and good men and women of 
every condition. This Peter Gambiacorti is worthy of a 
special notice. The Pisans had maintained a long contest 
against the tyrannical rule of Giovanni Agnello, the late 
head of the government, who, at the instigation of the 
Emperor Charles IV., had usurped the unconstitutional 
title of Doge. The father and uncles of Gambiacorti had 
been prominent in this resistance, and, by a most unjust 
sentence, had been condemned and beheaded ; he and his 
family were banished, and his estates were confiscated. 
The popular party however prevailed, and after some years 
its chiefs reversed the sentence of exile against the family, 
and Peter was recalled. He and his children, after a long 
time of absence, spent in great poverty, re-entered Pisa on 
foot, carrying olive branches in their hands. The streets 

122 Catharine of Siena. 

re-echoed with shouts of congratulation, and the bells of 
the Leaning Tower rang out joyfully. Peter, his wife, and 
his children, boys and girls of various ages, proceeded to 
the cathedral, where he offered, at the foot of the great 
altar, solemn thanks to God, " in the name of all exiles," 
and took an oath to "live as a good citizen among his 
equals, and to forget and forgive all past injuries." But 
the men of the new regime did not all share Gambiacorti's 
magnanimous sentiments, and the smouldering revenge 
burst forth that very day in acts of violence against the 
persons and property of the colleagues of Agnello. They 
set fire to the house of the deposed Doge ; a high wind 
blew, and carried the fire so rapidly that there was danger 
of the whole city being burnt down. The first act of 
Peter Gambiacorti, after his vow made before the altar, 
was to hasten to the defence of his former enemies ; he 
fought all day against the fire, drove back the incendiaries, 
and calmed the excited people. Standing in the midst of 
the smoke and flames, he cried to the people, "/ have 
pardoned mth all my heart — I, whose father and friends- 
perished unjustly on the scaffold ! By what right do you 
refuse to pardon ?"! 

It is not surprising that such a man should have become 
one of Catharine's friends and correspondents, or that she 
should have found the chief of the republic the most eager 
recipient among her Pisans, of all that she could impart 
concerning God and eternal things. 

Catharine had a commodious room assigned to her in 

' Bernard Marangoni, "Chronicles of Pisa." Quoted by Sis- 
mondi, Vol. vii., Chap, xlviii. 

Correspondence concerning a Crusade. 123 

the house of the brothers Buonconti, and here she spent 
many hours every clay in writing letters on the affairs of the 
Church and the Republics. Neri de Landoccio, a young 
knight of Siena, of whom mention has already been made, 
was her first secretary : he was with her at Pisa, and to him 
and to Raymond she dictated her correspondence. For 
social and spiritual converse with friends, the little chapel 
of St. Christina was reserved. It adjoined the house of the 
Buonconti, and here the Mantellatas and others assembled 
in the evenings for pleasant intercourse and sacred music. 

The thought of a crusade had early taken possession 
of Catharine's mind. During this visit to Pisa the idea 
attained greater prominence in her thoughts, and she 
began at once to communicate to others her zeal in this 
direction. The ambassador of the Queen of Cyprus was 
at this moment in Pisa, on his way to the papal court at 
Avignon, to convey to Gregory XI. the earnest entreaty 
of the queen that he would call upon all the Christian II 
powers to unite in a crusade against the Turks and 
Saracens. This queen's territory had been invaded by" 
the Turks, and she had witnessed the sufferings of the 
Christians at the hands of the infidels, her own life had 
been in peril, and she had been obliged to place her little 
son under the protection of Raimond Beranger, the grand 
master of the Knights Templars at Rhodes. The Cyprian 
ambassador, drawn by a secret sympathy, paid a visit 
to Catharine as soon as she arrived in Pisa, and conferred 
with her at great length concerning the project of a 
crusade. Catharine wrote to a friend in Siena, " To-day 
the ambassador of the Queen of Cyprus paid me a visit; 
he is on his way to the holy father to solicit his help for 

124 Catharine of Siena. 

the Christian lands under the infidels." This idea of the 
crusades we know had taken hold of many great minds 
before Catharine's time. The motives for such an enter- 
prise are not sufficiently clear to us in our day to enable 
us fully to comprehend the strength of the pure religious 
fervour which filled the souls of those holy men who 
preached the necessity of the undertaking as a pledge 
of fidelity to Christ ; but in Catharine's case it is easy to 
gather from her letters and conversations, that although 
loyalty to her Lord was the leading principle in this, as in 
all her thoughts and acts, she regarded the undertaking 
r-also from the point of view of a politician. She saw her 
country filled with, and ravaged by troops of foreign 
mercenary soldiers — Germans, Bretons, English, and Hun- 
garians. She saw the Visconti and other ambitious nobles 
continuallj'- at war with their own countrymen, and Chris- 
tian blood shed every day by Christian hands. She longed 
to see a practical means of diverting into a legitimate channel 
the furious passions and restless fighting zeal of these lawless 
troops, and of her own countrymen who made use of them. 
It would be, she conceived, a double benefit to society, to 
rid Christendom of the presence of these brigands, and to 
change this rude military ardour itself into a chivalrous zeal 
for a holy cause. Duguesclin had purged France of the 
demoralizing presence of military adventurers, and she 
dreamed of the possibility of doing the same for Italy. 
Her task was, however, a more difficult one than his, 
owing to the violent opposition of interests in her own 
land ; and, as we shall see, her design was thwarted by 
the revolt, now so near, of almost the whole of Italy 
against the Pope, and by the great schism which followed. 

Her Arguments in favour of a Crusade. 125 

Raymond says, in reply to some of her detractors, who 
asserted that Catharine had prophesied that a crusade would 
take place, and that her prophecy had proved false : " I 
acknowledge that Catharine always desired a crusade, and 
that she diligently laboured to bring it about ; it was one 
of the motives of her journey to Avignon ; she wished to 
engage the Pope Gregory in a holy war. I am witness of 
this, because when she conversed with the Sovereign Pontiff 
I acted as interpreter. Gregory XL spoke Proven9al, and 
Catharine could only speak in the dialect of Tuscany. 
Gregory therefore addressed her in Latin, which I inter- 
preted. He said to her, ' Peace must first of all be 
established among Christians, and after that we may or- 
ganize a crusade.' Catharine replied, ' There is no better'/ 
means, father, of attaining to peace among Christians than 
the undertaking of a crusade ; all the turbulent soldiers \ 
whose presence now promotes division among us, will 
gladly go forth on such an adventure ; few will refuse to 
serve God in the profession they love. The fire in Italy 
will thus be extinguished for want of the fuel which feeds 
it. You will accomplish several good objects at once ; you 
will obtain peace for Christians, and save many criminals 
by removing them from the scene and occasion of their 
criminal acts ; besides which many infidels may be con- 
verted and saved.' " Raymond adds, however, " I never 
heard Catharine indicate in any manner whatsoever that 
a crusade would take place ; on the contrary, she was 
always very reserved on the subject, resigning the whole 
to divine Providence, while expressing a hope that God 
would look in mercy on the people, and thus save many 
believers and unbelievers." 

126 Catharine of Siena. 

Catharine now set herself, with all her characteristic 
energy, to the propagation of this idea. She wrote several 
letters full of fire and persuasion to the celebrated Joanna, 
Queen of Naples (" bella e turpida regina "). She acquaints 
her with the good news that the Pope had already sent a bull 
to the Provincial of the Friar Preachers, to the General of 
the Minor Friars, and to another friend of her own, recom- 
mending them to preach a crusade through all Italy. " I 
therefore pray you, and would constrain you, madam," she 
writes, "in the name of Christ crucified, to animate your soul 
and prepare yourself by a humble attitude before God, to aid 
this work. If you will take up the cross, many will follow 
you. Awake, my sister, and act courageously ! It is no 
time to sleep : time itself sleeps not ; it flies like the wind." 
But Joanna, in the midst of intrigues, and absorbed by 
the ambitions and pleasures of life, had no heart for any 
such enthusiastic project. She made many beautiful 
promises, which Catharine for some time hopefully confided 
in, but which proved empty and vain. Hungary was con- 
tinually threatened by Turkish invasion ; Catharine wrote, 
therefore, in the same sense to the Queen of Hungary ; she 
also wrote to Bernabos Visconti, stirring up in him his 
ambition of glory. She then turned to the most famous 
t. of the Condottieri and brigand chiefs. She had long grieved 
i over the lawlessness and cruelty of the Englishman, Hawk- 
1 wood, and she eagerly entertained the idea of engaging 
I him in the holy war, for his own good and that of her 
fscountry. To Hawkwood she wrote very earnestly : "Retire, 
I beseech you, a little into yourself, my brother, and 
contemplate the dangers and punishment to which you 
are exposing your soul in the service of the devil. My 

Correspondence with Captains of Condotlieri. 127 

soul earnestly desires your salvation ; I desire to see you 
change your manner of life and become the servant and 
soldier of Christ. . . Fight no more with Christians : it is 
a cruel thing that we, who are Christians and members of 
one body, should thus tear and devour one another. I be- 
seech you to prepare yourself by humility and virtue for 
the time which is coming, in which you may give your life 
for Christ ; and thus you will show yourself a true and 
valiant knight. Brother Eaymond will carry to you this 
letter : give credence to what he says, for he is a true and 
faithful servant of God. . . Eemember, brother, how short 
is your time on earth." 

Having despatched Eaymond with the letter to Hawk- 
wood she wrote to other warlike captains ; among whom 
were Alviano, and the Count d'Agnolo. The former had a 
great respect for Catharine, and the purity of his life was 
such that other soldiers sometimes rallied him as being 
secretly a member of the mystic family. She selected old 
John of the Cell to convey the letter which she wrote to 
Agnolo, a man who required to be very discreetly dealt with.^^ 
Her ardent appeals produced for a time a great movement 
in the minds of men. The military chiefs began to dream 
of rich harvests of glory and of spoil on the plains of Asia. 
Preparations began to be made for departure. Women 
shared the general enthusiasm, and formed a company which 
they called " the servants of the pilgrims," to march to the 
Holy Land. Their enthusiasm was sometimes more sincere 
than wise, so much so, that Friar John of Vallombrosa was 
obliged in his sermons to moderate their indiscreet zeal.^ 

X Letter of Friar John to Catharine, VoL iii., p. 220, Edition Gigli. 

128 Cathanne of Siena. 

Catharine was beginning to hope for the realization of 
her cherished dream, when the first shocks were felt of 
the great Tuscan revolt against the Church, in which a 
large portion of Italy was soon to be implicated. She soon 
became sorrowfully convinced that the discords among 
Christian States would, for a long time probably, prevent 
the realization of a crusade. She saw that those souls 
must first be reconquered who were being lost to the king- 
dom of Christ, and that the Church itself must first be 
purified. Raymond says : " At the moment when the cities 
and lands which belonged to the see of Rome began to 
revolt against the Sovereign Pontiff, we were at Pisa. The 
news of the defection of Perugia reached Pisa ; distressed 
to observe among Christians so little fear of God, or love of 
his Church ... I went to see Catharine, together with Friar 
Pierre di Villetri ; my heart was drenched in grief, and my 
countenance announced to her the melancholy event which 
had occurred. At first she mingled her sorrow with ours, 
for the loss of souls and the scandals of the Church ; but 
very soon, perceiving that we were too much cast down, she 
cheerfully chided us, saying : * Do not weep before the time ; 
there Avill be far greater cause for tears by-and-by ; what 
you now see is but milk and honey to what will follow.' 
I asked her, in grief and alarm : ' Can we see anything 
worse than what we now see, unless it be the renuncia- 
tion altogether of the faith of Christ ? ' She replied, * You 
now see the laity in rebellion, but in a little while you 
will see the clergy much more culpable than they ; as 
soon as the Pope shall manifest an intention of reform- 
ing the morals of the clergy, they will revolt, and present 
the spectacle of a grievous scandal to the whole world. 

She fwesees the future of the Church. 1 29 

There will be a great schism ; Christendom will be divided, 
and the robe without seam will be rent in two ; arm your- 
selves, therefore, with patience.' When Urban VI. suc- 
ceeded to the papal throne (continues Raymond), and the 
Church was rent with the great schism, I beheld the 
verification of all that Catharine had predicted. . . Some 
years afterwards, when we were at Rome, I begged her to 
tell me what she believed would happen in the Church after 
these miseries. She replied : ' After many tribulations and 
trials, God will purify the Church by means unknown to 
man ; he will awaken many souls out of sleep ; and the 
reform of the Church and of her ministers will be so 
beautiful that the prospect of it fills my soul with joy. 
. . . Give thanks to God for the great peace which he will 
give to his people after the tempest is past.'" 

Catharine had come to Pisa, exhausted by her efforts 
during the plague, and in the hope that a rest and change 
of scene would restore her failing powers. Since the 
month of January in that year, she had suffered from 
great bodily weakness ; a reaction, affecting her spirits as 
well as her body, had succeeded the superhuman efforts 
she had made during the year of the plague. And now 
we are to follow her through a period of suffering of a 
nature seldom experienced except by persons of fine and 
nervous constitutions, possessing great strength of affection 
and spiritual aspiration. She had not found the repose 
she hoped for ; her labours of correspondence in connection 
with the desired crusade, had been exhausting ; and her 
faith was now severely tried by the gloomy signs of the 
approaching political tempest, into the midst of which she 
knew that she must be drawn, inasmuch as the honour 


130 Catharine of Siena. 

of God and the salvation of erring souls were involved 
in the approaching rupture. The families of her gentle 
hosts, the Buonconti, were full of solicitude for her; she 
was now obliged to moderate her active labours, and to 
rest on her bed for many hours daily in silence and dark- 
ness, on account of the severe headaches from which she 
suffered. On one occasion the pain was so violent that 
Gerard Buonconti, who had entered her room to ask after 
her health, observed the contracted nerves of her fore- 
head, the throbbing of her temples, and her poor, thin 
hands tightly clenched in agony ; his eyes filled with tears; 
turning over in his mind various schemes for her relief, 
he thought that it might be of use to bathe her temples 
with a generous wine. Having in his house only the thin 
wine of the year, he sent to a friendly merchant who had 
dealings with all the vineyards of France and Spain, to beg 
some of his oldest wine. " Willingly would I give you of 
my best," replied the merchant, "but my cask is exhausted; 
come and see for yourself if you will." The two honest 
men Avent together to the cellar on their errand of kind- 
ness, and on tapping the cask supposed to be empty, the 
old wine flowed abundantly, and its quality was pronounced 
to be supremely excellent. The possessor of it was stupefied 
with astonishment, and all his servants continued to protest 
that for three months past the cask had been dry. "It is 
a miracle!" they cried; "the virtue of the saint has 
accomplished this ! " and straightway a report flew through 
the city that Catharine had miraculously multiplied the 
wine of her hosts, without even rising from her bed to 
pronounce the word. 

Some days after, Catharine, convalescent, was going 

She deprecates Popularity. 131 

through the streets with Lapa to pay a visit to an apostolic 
nuncio just arrived from the papal court, when her presence 
was announced by some workmen who recognized her. A 
great crowd of people gathered around her ; the excitement 
caused by the sight of a few scores in one street, soon drew 
together hundreds from all parts of the city, so much so 
that " the workshops were all forsaken, the faces of the in- 
habitants crowded the doors and windows of the houses, 
and all business ceased for a moment in the universal desire 
to see this wondrous person, the dyer's daughter of Siena. 
' Go to ? ' they said ; ' let us see who this woman is who 
drinks no wine, and yet can miraculously fill the casks ! ' " ^ 
"Catharine," continues Raymond, " was exceedingly grieved 
by this noise and excitement concerning her. She was 
forced to pause; weak and trembling, she leaned on her 
mother's arm, and lifting her eyes to heaven, she frankly 
complained to her Saviour : * Lord, why dost thou suffer 
me to be covered with confusion in this way before all the 
people 1 Did I ever ask wine from thee 1 Thou knowest 
that, by an inspiration of thy grace, I have all my life 
abstained from wine, and now wine is suffered to be the 
cause of my being made ridiculous. I beseech thee to put 
this matter right, that all this foolish excitement may 
cease ! ' " Very shortly (the story continues), the wonderful 
wine came to an end, and the last which was drawn was so 
unpalatable that those who would have drunk it dashed it 
from their lips. The sudden brief outburst of popular favour 
was followed by as sudden a reaction, and people murmured, 

1 "Qualis ist hajc quie vinum non bibens, vas vacuum miraculoso 
vino potuit adimplere." — Raymond, Cap. 16. 


132 Catharine of Siena. 

criticized, and doubted. Catharine's friends came to her the 
same evening, with serious faces, to tell her that the people 
were actually beginning to say things seriously derogatory 
to her dignity. Catharine answered only with a merry 
laugh. How much of honesty of purpose, and of shrewd- 
ness in her estimate of the worth of popular opinion is 
expressed in her conduct of that morning, and in the laugh 
with which she replied to her regretful friends in the 
evening ! Her illness increased, in spite of all the kind 
efforts of friends, and her own fortitude in combating her 
physical weakness. She fainted repeatedly, and on one 
occasion she continued in a state of insensibility during the 
whole day. The deathly pallor of her face, and her rigid 
immovability made her anxious friends believe that she 
was actually dead, and she herself spoke afterwards of 
her soul having really quitted the body that day, of 
glorious things which she had seen in the city of God 
whither celestial beings had conducted her, and of long and 
blessed converse with her Lord, Her mother, her hosts, the 
Friar Preachers and Mantellatas, her companions, all con- 
tinued kneeling in her room till the evening, with tears en- 
treating God to restore her to life. Towards the hour of 
vespers the sisters observed the beating of her heart, and two 
silent tears stealing from beneath the closed eyelids. With 
deep sighs of relief, they all gave thanks to God ; but 
Catharine, awaking from her long trance, wept bitterly. 
Her chastened soul was not yet made entirely M'illing to 
return to the pains and toils of earth, from the ineffable 
foretaste granted to her of the joys of heaven. A sad 
presentiment, moreover, seemed to haunt her of ap- 
proaching calamities for her countrymen. But she had 

Participation in the sufferings of Christ. 133 

not yet traversed the whole length of the valley full of the 
shadows of death. She began now to speak more than ever 
of the sufTerings of Jesus Christ ; the thought of his passion 
was never absent from her mind ; and she whispered 
continually in her prayers the deep desire to be made more 
and more a partaker of his sufferings; her soul thirsted 
with a deeper thirst than ever for the living God, and for 
l)erf ect oneness with Christ ; at times she seemed plunged 
in sorrow, yet she embraced and clung to the sorrow; 
words failed her when she endeavoured to speak of her 
soul's travail at that time. "We cannot follow her," her 
friends said ; " we must leave her alone with her Lord ; 
there is a mystery in his dealings with her which we do not 
fathom." And we, at this day, will do wisely to echo 
those words, and not attempt to explain her sorrow or her 
ecstasy, the intensity of the outgoing of her soul towards 
God, or his deep and secret revelations of himself to her. 
We leave her alone with her Lord. 

What follows shall be told in the words of her friends, 
the witnesses of her sorrows and her joys. Catharine 
remained silent for many hours every day at the foot of the 
cross, her frail body exercised with severe pain, while her 
soul unweariedly pressed on to a closer union with Christ, 
and participation in the sufferings of Calvary. One day 
she was alone in the little chapel of St. Chiistina. " The 
hour of the consummation had arrived." She remained 
longer than usual, entranced : her senses seemed to be 
dead. A few of her intimate friends entered and remained 
in a remote corner of the church ; they saw her prostrate, 
her forehead on the earth, like one dead : after a long and 
motionless silence, she slowly raised herself and kneeled ; 

134 Catharine of Siena. 

then she stretched forth her arms until her figure assumed 
the form of a cross ; her countenance was " all on fire ; " 
she seemed absorbed, possessed by some high, imearthly 
passion ; her eyes were fixed, as if ravished by something 
which others saw not ; she remained thus, perfectly motion- 
less, for some minutes, and then suddenly fell like one who 
had received a death-blow. She was carried to her bed in 
the house of the Buonconti. When she began to return to 
herself, Raymond was by her side, and she whispered to him 
in a low voice : " Father, I bear in my body the marks of 
the Lord Jesus." Later in the day she spoke further on 
the subject, "I saw my Lord," she said, "extended on 
the cross, and from each of his five wounds there streamed 
forth towards me a ray of heavenly light. My love for him, 
and the desire of my soul to throw itself out of the body 
towards him, were so strong, that they raised me from 
the ground on which I was prostrated, and supported 
me while I gazed upon him. The five bright rays stream- 
ing towards me, pierced my hands and my feet and 
my side with an acute pain, and I fell as if dead. I 
besought the Lord that his blessed wounds might not 
appear visibly in my body ; hence none but myself 
knows my secret pain." Catharine knew that the stig- 
mata believed to have been borne by the great St. Francis 
of Assisi had won for him a superstitious worship which 
that great saint himself repudiated, and which, had it 
been bestowed on herself, she would have dreaded and 
fled from. Some fear of this kind, some awe which she 
never expressed, seems to have inspired the immediate 
and earnest request that she might not bear visibly the 
sacred marks, at the same time that she so ardently 

The Legend of the Stigmata. 135 

desired to be made even outwardly like unto him whom 
her soul loved, and to realize the most intimate union pos- 
sible in this life. Such was the incident which gave rise to 
the belief held after her death that her experience exactly 
coincided with that of St. Francis, or with that at least 
which was attributed to him; for there is no spoken or 
written word of Francis of Assisi on record in which he 
himself claims the honour of having received the stigmata.^ 
Catharine remained for some days after this in a state of 
profound weakness, and tortured with pain. She after- 
wards told a friend that the anguish which she experienced 
in the realization of the sufferings of Christ, was greatest 
at the moment when she was pleading for the salvation of 
some persons whom she dearly loved. '* Promise me that 
thou wilt save them ! " she cried, and stretching forth 
her right hand to Jesus, she again implored in agony : 
" Promise me, dearest Lord, that thou wilt save them. 
give me a token that thou wilt." Then her Lord 
seemed to clasp her outstretched hand in his, and to 
give her the promise ; when he withdrew, and her hand 
dropped, "she felt a piercing pain as though a nail had 
been driven through the palm." 

Her health having become gradually somewhat restored, 
Catharine resumed her active habits. From that time 
forward her face beamed with a still more wonderful peace 
and joy, at the same time that her whole frame bore the 
traces of severe conflict. An atmosphere of heaven seemed 
to surround her ; she was like one who possessed a secret 

^ Beccafumi and other painters have represented the stigmatiza- 
tion of St. Catharine in the Church of St. Christina. 

136 Catlianne of Siena. 

which all men desired to know, but which can be imparted 
by God alone, in direct communication with the soul of man. 
The multitudes who were attracted to her " took notice of 
her that she had been with Jesus ; " and with that half- 
unconscious thirst which lingers in every human soul, 
urging it to cry, " who will show us any good 1 " many 
besought her to tell them what she had in secret learned 
of God. 

During her stay at Pisa she encountered enemies as well 
as friends, and there seems to have been a great conflict of 
opinion in regard to her. Many simple folk among the 
Pisans, not knowing how to express sufficiently their love 
and admiration for her, knelt down, on meeting her in the 
street, and kissed her hand. She was sharply rebuked for 
allowing this. The austerity of her life and the fervency of 
her prayers became the object of criticism here, as at Siena. 
While some praised her, others maintained that she was 
solely actuated by feminine vanity, and some even that she 
was instigated by an evil spirit. The learned men of the 
University thought it worth while to dispute with each other 
as to whether she courted praise, or whether she only en- 
joyed it when it came to her, and on this account took 
great delight in appearing before the public. Some said, 
" What folly it is in people to run from all sides to see her ! 
She is only a woman ; she ought to remain in her house if 
she desires to serve God." Two or three of these deter- 
mined, if possible, to put an end to the scandal, as they 
termed it, of the public admiration for her. A celebrated 
physician among them, called John Gutalebracia, resolved 
to confound her by propounding difficult questions on the 
Scriptures. He invited a renowned jurist, Master Peter 

Master Peter Alhizi. 137 

Albizi, a man of mature age and great prudence, to accom- 
pany him, and they proceeded to the villa Buonconti. The 
doctor opened the conversation in the following manner : 
" Master Peter Albizi and I have heard, madam, of your 
virtues and your learning, and we are come in the hope of 
receiving from you some spiritual instruction. We are 
anxious to know how you understand that passage in 
which it is said, God spoke in order to create the world. 
Has God a mouth and a tongue 1 " He addressed to her 
several other questions of the same kind, and with assumed 
respect awaited her reply. Catharine answered, *'I am 
astonished that you, who are teachers of others, as you 
inform me, should present yourselves before a poor woman 
whose ignorance it would be much more proper that you 
should enlighten. But, as you wish me to reply, I will do 
so as God will enable me. What benefit will it be to you 
or to me to know how God spoke in order to create the 
world 1 God is a Spirit, and what is necessary for both 
you and me to know is, that our Lord Jesus Chiist, the 
Son of God, assumed our nature, and suffered and died for 
our salvation. Yes ; the essential for me is to believe this, 
and to think upon it, in order that my heart may be filled 
with love towards him who so loved me. This is the true 
science." She continued to speak with so much fervour 
that Master Peter was unable to restrain his tears ; sud- 
detdy, taking his bonnet of crimson velvet from his head, 
he dropped on his knees and asked her forgiveness for 
having come with the sole intention of perplexing or 
tempting her. Catharine, giving him her hand, conjured 
him to rise. She seated him beside her, and they held a 
long and animated conversation on spiritual subjects. 

1 38 Cathanne of Siena. 

Before he left, he begged her to do him the favour of pre- 
senting his little new-born baby at the baptismal font. 
She cheerfully undertook to do so ; and from that hour he 
who had been bitterly prejudiced against her, became one 
of her warmest friends. Another gentleman, who enjoyed 
a great reputation for piety, wrote her a letter full of ex- 
cellent arguments, reproving her for allowing any honour 
to be shown to her. He recalled to her the example of our 
Lord and of the saints ; exhorted her to go home and live 
in retirement, reminding her that the true servants of God 
loved solitude above all things, and that only hypocrites 
sought renown. Fra Bartholomew of Siena, who was one 
of Catharine's companions at Pisa, says : " This letter was 
forwarded under cover to Father Raymond, who communi- 
cated its contents to me. We were very indignant, and 
intended not to show the letter to Catharine, but to answer 
the writer ourselves, and to reproach him with his im- 
pertinence and ignorance of spiritual things. While we 
were whispering together on the subject, Catharine per- 
ceived us, and inquired whether anything was troubling us. 
As soon as we told her, she claimed the letter, and when 
we hesitated to give it to her, she said, ' If you refuse it 
to me, I insist at least that you read to me what concerns 
me in it.' Kaymond then read to her part of the letter, 
and she rebuked us gently for feeling angry. ' You 
ought,' she said, * to join with me in thanking the author 
of that letter; he gives me very valuable advice. Do 
you not see that he fears that I may wander from the 
path of humility, and is anxious to save me from that 
snare 1 Now, I must have that letter, and return thanks 
to the writer of it.' She did so, in fact, at once, and in a 

She refuses to converse with insincere persons. 139 

most admirable manner. As Father Raymond, however, 
would not accept her view of the matter, and continued 
to protest that he would write himself, she gave him a very 
severe look, and reproached him for discovering evil where 
only good was intended." 

" It often happened," says Raymond, " that persons 
unknown to us, of honourable and respectable appearance, 
but in reality addicted to vice, would present themselves 
before Catharine. Having a marvellous insight into 
character, she would refuse to look at them or answer 
them when they addressed us ; and if they insisted, she 
would say : * First, let us purify ourselves from our faults, 
and escape from the bondage of Satan, and then we will 
converse about God.' By this means she soon disencum- 
bered us of the presence of many whom we afterwards 
discovered to be incorrigible profligates." 

Gerard Buonconti one day brought to her a young man 
of twenty years of age, whose system was shattered by the 
long continuance of a quotidian fever from which he was 
then suffering. He had consulted many physicians in vain 
he was so weak as scarcely to be able to stand to salute her. 
Filled with pity for him, and seeking an interview alone 
with him, she laid her hand on his shoulder, and gently 
whispered to him concerning the weight which she saw to 
be pressing on his soul. He was a stranger to prayer, to 
true faith, and to peace. She charged him at once to pour 
forth his heart in confession of all his past sins and 
negligence. He met her advice with truthfulness and 
simplicity, and conferred for some time after with good 
Friar Thomas della Fonte, to whom Catharine had com- 
mended him. He began at once to feel his soul lightened 

140 Catlmrine of Siena. 

and his body strengthened. She then said to him, " Go, my 
son, in the peace of Jesus Chiist, who will hear thy prayer. 
This fever will no more torment thee." Not many days 
after, he returned in restored health, to render thanks to 
her and to God ; his countenance was full of happiness and 
joy, and he walked with a firm, elastic step. Kaymond saw 
him some few years later on a journey through Pisa, and 
affirmed that he had become so robust that he could not 
have known him, had he not explained who he was. He 
continued to be a faithful follower of Christ. Raymond 
says, moreover, " I was witness of this work of healing, 
and can say, like St. John, 'he who hath seen beareth 
witness.' There were also others who witnessed it; 
Catharine's host, and Lapa, Friar Thomas, Friar Bartholo- 
mew, and all the devout women of Siena who had come 
to Pisa with Catharine." 

Catharine, like most of the Sienese, possessed a great love 
and cultivated taste for music. She sometimes went in the 
evening to hear the organ in the church of St. Stephen at Pisa, 
where "the breeze gently waved the Turkish banners sus- 
pended from the vaulted roofs, trophies of the valour of the 
ancient Christian knights," no doubt suggesting thoughts of 
the new crusade for which she hoped. On leaving this church 
one evening she was met by a messenger, who conveyed to 
her an urgent invitation from the community of the Car- 
thusians established in Gorgon Island, to pay them a visit. 
This little island is situated nearly half-way between 
the Pisan shore and the most northerly cliffs of Corsica, 
and about thirty miles from Leghorn. Dom Bartolommeo 
of Eavenna was then prior of the Carthusian monastery 
in that island. He and his monks had been more than 

Visit to Goi-gon Island. 141 

once obliged to defend themselves against bands of Sara- 
cens, who landed and overran the fields which they had 
cultivated, and attacked the convent in the hope of plunder. 
A few years after the date of Catharine's visit, the Saracens 
drove out the last of the poor religious, having murdered 
many of their companions, and took possession of the island. 
Dom Bartolommeo had often urged Catharine to spend a 
few days in his island, that his brethren might profit hy 
her instructions. " He entreated me," says Raymond, "to 
second his request. Catharine consented, and we made the 
voyage thither, to the number of about twenty persons. 
We arrived a little after sunset ; the prior met us, and con- 
ducted Catharine and her companions to the house where 
they were to lodge, about a mile from the monastery. The 
following morning he assembled all his monks outside 
the convent, and entreated Catharine to address a few 
words to them," It must have been an unusual spectacle, 
that of a great community of monks assembled thus, 
within no consecrated walls, but under the blue skies, 
seated on the ground, in the shade of the olive trees, or 
standing erect, and intent on all that passed ; the dyer's 
daughter of Siena, in all the stern simplicity of her charac 
ter, cheerful and frank in aspect and demeanour, silently 
waiting till stillness had fallen upon the wondering and 
obedient crowd ; her friends, Alessia, Cecca, Lysa, and 
others, in their white gowns and dominican cloaks, grouped 
around her ; Raymond, Dom Bartolommeo, and her 
youthful secretary and knight, Neri di Landoccio, con- 
ferring together as to the most suitable arrangements for 
this singular audience, so that the speaker might be dis- 
tinctly heard, and the hearers freed from all distraction. 

142 Catharine of Siena. 

One can imagine how grateful in this hot July or August 
weather must have been the sea breezes from the blue 
Mediterranean, so near that the splash of its waves upon 
the shining pebbles of its tideless shore could be distinctly 
heard ; and how pleasant the soft shade, the silence and 
the calm, after the busy life and heat of the city. When 
Catharine was requested, as Raymond says, to " favour 
them with some words of edification," she at first declined, 
" excusing herself on the grounds of her incapacity and her 
sex ; saying that it was more meet that she should listen 
to God's servants than that she should speak in their pre- 
sence." Yielding at last to the earnest invitation of Father 
Bartolommeo, and the murmured entreaties which ran 
through the crowd of expectant monks, she began to speak, 
" saying what the Holy Spirit inspired her to say in refer- 
ence to the many illusions and temptations to which soli- 
taries are liable, and concerning the means of triumphing 
over them." Contemplating, as she spoke, the assembly 
before her, she distinguished many a young face which 
told a pathetic tale of disappointment, or of conflict, or 
of yearning hope ; her maternal heart was moved to its 
depths, and overcoming the constraint which she had 
felt at first, she pleaded with them as a tender mother 
with beloved sons, or as a loving sister with brethren. 
Her clear voice was distinctly heard amidst the breath- 
less silence which was maintained ; and there was, says 
Kaymond, " so much method and ability in her discourse 
that I was filled with amazement, as indeed were all her 
audience." Another of her companions described her 
eloquence, on this and on other occasions, as resembling 
a flowing river : " She did not, like some orators, care- 

Perils at Sea. 143 

fully seek and select illustrations or flowers of oratory, 
but her speech was like an impetuous torrent, which in 
its onward flow drags into itself, and whirls along with it 
all the flowers growing near, and profusely scattered 
upon its banks." When she had ceased, and the gentle 
murmur of the wondering and grateful assembly had 
taken the place of the hushed stillness filled only by her 
tender voice, the prior turned to Raymond and whispered : 
•'Dear brother Raymond, I am the confessor of all these 
brethren and disciples, and know the hearts of each ; and 
I assure you that if this saintly lady had herself heard 
all their confessions, she could not have spoken in a more 
just and suitable manner ; she perceived all their wants, 
and did not utter a word Avhich was not useful to them. 
It is evident that she speaks by the inspiration of God." 
The following evening Catharine and her company em- 
barked again for Pisa ; at midnight the wind lowered to 
a dead calm, and the pilot of their little vessel became 
very anxious. " We are in a dangerous channel," says 
Raymond ; " if the wind from the north, which usually 
follows such a calm, had risen upon us, we should have 
been thrown upon some rocky islands, or drifted into 
the open sea. I spoke to Catharine of our danger. She 
answered in her accustomed tone, ' Why do you give 
way to distraction ? There is no cause for fear.' I re- 
mained silent, for I was reassured by her calmness ; but 
soon the wind veered in the direction dreaded by the 
pilot, and I drew her attention to it. ' Let him change 
the helm, in the name of God,' she said, ' and sail in the 
direction of the wind which heaven shall send him, and 
not against it.' The pilot obeyed, and our vessel turned 

144 CatJmrine of Siena. 

its back on the shore whither we were destined. We 
were all troubled in mind, but she continued in prayer, with 
her hands clasped and her head bent forward ; and we had 
not advanced far before the favourable wind that had for- 
saken us, blew afresh, and we sailed quickly towards the 
shore of Italy. We arrived at the desired port at the hoiu: 
of matins, singing the Te Deum as we touched the shore." 

In the autumn Catharine and her friends returned to Siena; 
as the winter approached, some increase of bodily strength 
was granted to her, and in the silence of her little room at 
the Fullonica she sought wisdom, insight, and force for the 
greater labours to which she was yet to be called. 

The condition of Italy became more and more calami- 
tous. We have already seen how the Eepublic of Siena 
had been distracted by the rivalries of its different poli- 
tical factions. The whole of Lombardy was ravaged by 
" those wild beasts "^ the Visconti. The kingdom of 
Naples, under the influence of the disorderly court of 
Queen Joanna, became a prey to rival parties, to unruly 
passions, and to wars of revenge. The state of Rome, 
abandoned by its popes, was still worse. In the midst 
of its desolation there yet remained, however, a remnant 
of its ancient spirit, which for a time enabled it to re- 
assert its liberties under Rienzi, " the last of the tribunes," 
whose revolution Avas the most prominent event of the 
fourteenth century in Rome. Catharine of Siena was the 
faithful ally of Rienzi in the earlier part of his career. 
Neither the efforts of Rienzi, however, nor the warnings 
of Catharine were sufficient to avert the impending cal:i- 

1 Villani, L. ix., Ch. 10.3. 

Treachery of Bernahos Visconti. 145 

mities of Italy and of the Church. The Tribune fell a 
victim to his own weakness in embracing the luxurious 
manner of life against which he had at first protested, and 
lost the confidence of the people who had proclaimed him 
the liberator of Italy. The prophetic spirit of Catharine 
foresaw the great approaching defection ; but she looked 
beyond that, to a time when Christendom, purified by still 
greater afflictions than those which befell it during her own 
life, would return to its primitive simplicity and " acknow- 
ledge the Saviour who had redeemed it by his own blood." 
Bernabos Visconti, Duke of Milan, continued to incite 
the whole of the north of Jtaly to rebellion against the 
Pope, while Gregory ceased not to send his fighting legates 
one after the other with their large armies of mercenary 
Bretons, English, and Germans, to out-manoeuvre the move- 
ments of Bernabos. He publicly excommunicated him and 
his captains. Bernabos, requiring time for the recruiting 
of his forces, resorted to dissimulation in order to obtain 
it. He sent Andria Doria of Genoa as his ambassador 
to Avignon to convey to the Pope his submission, and 
implore his pardon. Gregory, who was pacific and timid 
by nature, readily granted it. Bernabos, however, in the 
meanwhile had made his preparations for a treacherous 
attack first upon Genoa and the Doria family, of whose 
services he was availing himself ; and, secondly, upon 
the pontifical allied army. The revulsion in the mind 
of Gregory, on learning this, was very great, and he 
swore to undertake a war of extermination against the 
Visconti. More than ten Italian cities submitted to the 
furious attack of his legates ; for indeed the people were 
not sorry to be thus forcibly relieved from the Milanese 


146 Catluinne of Siena. 

tyranny. An unexpected revolution, however, occurred, 
which checked the success of the papal army and changed 
the course of events. The powerful republic of Florence, 
hitherto so loyal to the Church, now rose up with great 
vehemence against its authority. 

It is not necessary to give in all their details the causes 
of this revolt ; it is enough to say that it was more than 
justified by the oppressive government of the pontifical 
legates. The long course of crimes, treasons, and cruel- 
ties of which these legates had been guilty against the 
Florentine subjects of the Pope was crowned by an act 
which proved to be more than their patience could en- 
dure. During a season of great scarcity, when the 
harvests of Tuscany barely sufficed for the nourishment 
of the starving citizens, the legates sent their own soldiers 
into the fields to reap the corn ; this they shipped off in 
their galleys from the ports of Leghorn and Genoa to be 
conveyed to other ports, where they received good prices 
for the cargoes. At the same time they forbade the 
importation to Tuscany of the corn of the Campagna. 
These measures, executed with a high hand and under 
pretence of "teaching a salutary lesson of humility to 
the Florentines," excited that people to fury ; and in the 
streets of this hitherto loyal and orthodox city were now 
to be seen crowds of rebels crying, " Down with the 
government of the priests ! Viva la Liberta ! " They 
burnt the convents, forced the prisons, and published a 
plebiscite abolishing for ever the horrible institution of 
the Inquisition. They suppressed the canonical tribunals, 
and abandoned the clergy to popular vengeance as the 
enemies of the public good. The news of this revolution 

BevoU of Florence. 147 

filled the heart of Catharine with dismay. She had already 
laboured assiduously, by her letters to Pope Gregory, to the 
Signory of Florence, aud to the Visconti, to restore peace, 
by bringing each to the recognition of the true principles 
which should govern the State and the Church. She had 
entreated the Pope no longer to leave the conduct of his 
affairs in the hands of the worldly and rapacious legates, and 
had counselled the Florentines to endeavour to come to an 
understanding with the sovereign pontiff by means of an 
embassy to Avignon, rather than by resorting to arms. 
Secretly in her heart she had determined not to rest until 
the Pope should resume his responsibilities in Italy; this 
aim she never lost sight of, and never ceased to commend 
it to God in prayer until she saw its accomplishment. 

Gregory trembled when he heard of the revolt of his 
faithful Florentines, and began to be even in fear of his 
own furious legates, who had exceeded so far the powers 
entrusted to them. He wrote as follows to the magistrates 
of Florence : " As for ourselves, we take God and man 
to witness that it is not through our will or fault that 
these wrongs of which you complain have been perpetrated. 
Dear children, we warn you, we beseech you, we implore 
you to put away this tumult of your spirits, and to return 
to God. Consider the horrible misfortunes which will result 
from this revolution. Make restitution for the crimes you 
have committed against the Church, and we shall grant 
to you abundantly our apostolic benediction." This letter 
had no effect in allaying the approaching storm, though 
the most moderate of the republican leaders employed their 
utmost efforts to prevent the outrages committed by the 
enraged and hunger-stricken people. The refuse of the 


148 Catharine of Siena. 

population living on the banks of the Arno, fell with 
violence upon a Chartreuse convent in Florence, drag- 
ged out the prior, who had assisted the legates in their 
great corn robberies, and tortured him to death in the most 
horrible manner. They roasted him alive by the river side, 
tearing off his flesh with pincers, and throwing it to the 
dogs. The laughter and mockery of the people were 
mingled with the howling of the dogs as they quarrelled 
over their horrible repast. The spirit of revolt spread like 
a conflagration. The red flag bearing the word " Libertas " 
in letters of silver was carried to Viterbo, Orvieto, Spoleto, 
Todi, and many other cities. Perugia drove out from her 
midst her cardinal and all the priests. The whole country' 
re-echoed with the cry of "Down with the Church." The 
brigand chief Hawkwood, hearing in this cry the promise 
of great gains for his mercenaries, forsook the banner of 
the Church, which he had degraded, and went over to the 
^service of the rebels, who offered him high pay. The soul 
of Gregory was desolated with the news of this wide- 
spread revolt, for he perfectly understood that this hatred 
against the Church was bound up with deep sentiments 
of patriotism and the love of freedom, and that it 
could not be denounced as an unmixed evil. He had re- 
course to ecclesiastical weapons. He excommunicated the 
Florentines and all their adherents, as contumacious rebels. 
The city was placed under an interdict; he ordered all 
the churches to be closed, and prohibited the administra- 
tion of the Sacraments. All commercial treaties with the 
Florentines were declared null, and the nations were 
warned to have no dealings with them. It was for- 
bidden, under pain of excommunication, to furnish the 

The Florentines Excommunicated. 149 

city with corn, wine, or wood. The seizure of their mer- 
chandise was declared to be legitimate ; the right to make 
testaments and to inherit property was forbidden them. 
They were declared the slaves and the offscouring of the 
world. ^ The Florentines met these ecclesiastical fulmina- 
tions at first with derision and scorn. Gradually, however, 
they saw their great merchants emigrating and establishing 
themselves in London, Canterbury, Norwich, &c. They 
found the merchants of other cities unwilling to deal with 
them ; their vessels and their agents were shunned ; their 
commerce Avas almost destroyed. The more sober of the 
revolutionists resolved to attempt a reconciliation with the 
Pope. Two ambassadors were selected, one of whom was 
the generous "captain of the people," Barbadori. They set 
out for Avignon. Gregory granted them a public audience 
in the great hall of the Consistory. The ambassadors pros- 
trated themselves before him, and kissed the apostolic feet. 
Barbadori then stood upright; and in a voice tremulous with 
emotion, he addressed the Pontiff in his beautiful Tuscan 
tongue, wliich was not understood by Gregory, except 
through the medium of an interpreter, " Most holy father," 
he said, " we beseech you, listen to us as an equitable judge, 
and not as one of a party. If you had sent to the Italian 
cities good legates or prefects, who, instead of exercising 
an accursed tyranny, would have caused your power to 
be reverenced, you would never have had anything ■with 
which to reproach us, and we shoiild never have had to 
plead our own defence. Your legates ought to have 
remembered that they were not dealing with barbarians 

^ Bull of Gregory XL Raynaldus, "Eccles. Annals." 

150 Catharine of Siena. 

or Turks, but with Christians and free republicans. Their 
tyranny has passed all bounds ; they are guilty of all crimes. 
Beasts without reason even know how to distinguish good 
from bad management : they submit to the one and resist 
the other. Men are not worse than beasts if they revolt 
against misrule." He then describes the conduct of the 
legates, and the reaping of the cornfields of Tuscany by the 
papal troops, and recounts the long history of the fidelity 
of Florence to the Church. He concludes thus : " If your 
legates, holy father, have acted with your authority, which 
we cannot believe, we come to complain to you frankly of 
the injustice of the Roman Church. If, on the contrary, 
they have acted without your sanction, it was they who 
deserved to be punished, and not the people of Florence. 
If you do not condemn them, and if you suffer your anger 
to fall only on those who have resisted their wickedness, we 
must appeal to the supreme judgment of God and to the 
verdict of public opinion." The speech of Barbadori pro- 
duced a great sensation in the assembled consistory. The 
Pope, who had resolved, at the advice of his cardinals, 
not to speak one word himself to the ambassadors, was 
so moved, that he spoke nevertheless, under a certain 
impulse of pity and generosity, promising henceforward 
to deal equitably with the Florentines, and by means of 
carefully appointed officers in place of the cardinal legates. 
For several days after this interview, consistories continued 
to be held, in which the most violent opposition of 
opinion prevailed. The Italian cardinals were in favour 
of pacific measures towards their countrymen. The 
French cardinals, who were in a large majority, and 
who were unable to form any conception of the moral 

Appeal to tlie Justice of God. 151 

force and passionate love of liberty of the Italian people, 
cried out for inexorable and violent measures. The 
ambassadors were again admitted on the fourth day to 
receive the pontifical decision. Excommunication and 
interdiction, with all their terrible results, were to be 
maintained, and war was again declared. The two am- 
bassadors stood silent and apparently stupefied, for several 
minutes. Barbadori seemed to be oppressed with a deep 
sadness ; but at last he broke silence. Looking around 
him, and seeing none but enemies, he advanced towards the 
great crucifix at the end of the consistorial hall, and in a 
voice of solemn entreaty and defiance, pronounced these 
words : " Great God ! we, deputies from the Florentine 
people, appeal to thee and to thy justice from the unjust 
sentence of thy vicar. thou, who canst never err, and 
whose anger is ever tempered with mercy, thou who 
wiliest that the peoples of the earth shall be free and not 
enslaved ; thou who abhorrest the tyrant, be thou this day 
the help and tlie shield of the Florentine people, who in thy 
name will strive for their rights and their liberties." i The 
ambassadors then left the room, and returned to Florence 
with their sorrowful tidings. 

The hatred of the people against the ecclesiastical 
government now became still greater than before. They 
spoke even of abandoning the Christian faith, and es- 
tablishing another creed and another worship. Vast 
preparations were made at Avignon for the renewal of 
the war. Cardinal Robert, Count of Geneva, took the 
command of 10,000 men, composed chiefly of Germans 

' St. Antoniuus, "History of the Pontificate," Tit. xxii 

152 CatJiarine of Siena. 

and Bretons. The advance of Cardinal Eobert upon the 
revolted republics, and the horrible massacre of Cesena, 
executed under his orders, have been already alluded to. 
From the smaller cities he advanced towards Florence. 
The people and signory of Florence, in dread of his 
approach, once more took counsel together on the possibility 
of again making overtures of peace. 

Catharine, as we have seen, had been living at theFullonica, 
after her mission to Lucca, Pisa, and Gorgona already 
described. She had been in correspondence during the 
winter with the magistrates and other citizens of all the 
revolted cities. On New Year's Day of 1376 she was 
attacked with a low fever, which lasted to the end of April. 
Father Raymond, who had been on some religious mission 
to Florence, returned from that city to Siena at the begin- 
ning of May. He lost no time in visiting his friend, whom 
he found stretched on her little bed, and suffering extremely. 
He sat down and recounted to her all the details of that 
terrible revolution in Florence which has just been described, 
and of the unsuccessful embassy to Avignon. Catharine 
listened in silence, and for several hours was plunged in 
deep sorrow. Her prayers offered up for so many years 
seemed not to have been heard. The peace of Christen- 
dom and the refoi'm of the Church, which she so ardently 
desired, appeared to be farther off than ever. Great 
darkness and depression took possession of her soul 
during those sad hours. Raymond reports a few words 
of bitter anguish which escaped her during the day, not 
addressed to him nor to any man, but apparently the 
expression of a great inward conflict. Towards evening 
she arose, though scarcely able to stand upright ; then 

Her Letters to Gi'egory XL 153 

for an hour she remained prostrated at the foot of a crucifix 
in her room, in an agony of prayer. " She arose from that 
attitude," says Chavin de Malan, "with the fortunes of 
Christendom in her hand ; her voice was now to be heard 
above all the discordant voices of the world ; and she was 
about to trace with a firm, unfaltering hand the path in 
which men ought to walk." The same evening, before she 
slept, she wrote a letter to Gregory XI. The purport of 
this letter, which is of great length and full of eloquent 
pleadings, was to convince Gregory that it was his duty to 
return without delay to Italy. She pointed out to him, 
with the indignation of a true patriot, how the interests of 
her country were made of no account in comparison with 
the satisfaction of the avarice, and lust of power and of 
pleasure, of its delegated rulers. She described to him how 
his bishopric of Rome was misgoverned, and how infidelity 
or indifference had taken possession of men's minds. She 
says, " I wish {io voglio) that j^ou should be a true and 
faithful pastor, one who would be willing, had he a hundred 
thousand lives, to sacrifice them all for the honour of God 
and the love of humanity." " Do all that is in your power," 
she continues, "and having done so, you will be exonerated 
before God and man. . . . Do not imagine that you 
can reduce your subjects to submission by the sword. Y^ou 
will never succeed with them unless 3'ou use weapons of 
benignity and grace. . . . The spirit of strife and the 
absence of virtue, these are two things which are causing 
the Church to lose ground more and more. If you wish 
to recover what you have lost, your only means of doing 
so is to retrace your steps, and to reconquer your lost 
dominions by the encouragement of virtue and by peace. 

164 Catharine of Siena. 

Pardon, beloved father, my presumptuous boldness. I 
crave your benediction." Nicolo Tommaseo says : " Catha- 
rine saw it necessary to strike at the root of the evil, 
which was the immorality of the clergy and the odious 
government of the papal legates." De Malan says : " The 
letters which Catharine wrote at this time to Gregory 
initiate us into a new kind of diplomacy, very unlike that 
generally resorted to." These wonderful despatches of the 
dyer's daughter were carried to the Pope by a poor monk 
of La Chartreuse. About a week later she sent him other 
letters by the hand of Neri de Landoccio the young Sienese 
nobleman who had now been for three years her secretary. 
Again and again she wrote to Gregory, pleading with him 
boldly and frankly, at times as a child with a father, at 
others as a wise and stern monitor. " Consider," she says, 
" these two evils before you ; on the one hand your tem- 
poral possessions, of which you are being deprived, and on 
the other, the souls which are being lost to you. Which 
evil is the worst 1 Open the eyes of your intelligence, and 
look steadily at this matter. You will then see, holy 
father, that of the two evils the latter is by far the worst, 
and that it is more needful for you to win back souls than 
to reconquer your earthly possessions. . . . You now 
place your confidence in your soldiers, those devourers 
of human flesh ; and your good desires for the reform of 
the Church are hindered. Place your hope rather in 
Christ crucified, and in the good government of the 
Church by virtuous pastors; let it please your Holiness 
to seek out true and humble servants of God as pastors 
in the Church, men who desire nothing but the glory of 
God and the salvation of souls. Alas ! what corruption 

She urges the Befatm of the Church. 155 

and confusion we now see. Those who should be models 
of virtue and simplicity, those who ought to be stewards 
of the wealth of the Church for the good of the poor and 
of erring souls, are a thousand times more entangled in the 
luxury and vanities of the world than the laity ; for, in- 
deed, man}'- of the laity put the pastors to shame by their 
pure and holy lives. It seems, indeed, that eternal justice 
is now permitting to be done by force that which is not 
done for love's sake. It seems that God permits the Church 
to be robbed of her power and wealth in order to teach her 
that he wills her to return to her primitive state of poverty 
and humility, and of regard for spiritual rather than tem- 
poral things ; for ever since she has sought temporal posses- 
sions, things have gone from bad to worse. It seems just, 
indeed, that he should permit her such great tribulations. 
Open your eyes, father, and see what these people are who 
are called apostles of the flock, and how they devour the 
poor; how their souls are filled with greed and hatred; and 
how they have made their bodies vessels of every kind 
of abomination." She pleads with gentle charity for the 
rebels: "We are in sympathy with you, holy father, and 
I know that it is thought by all that your revolted sub- 
jects have done ill, and are without excuse. Neverthe- 
less, on account of their great sufferings under bad pastors 
and rulers, and the unjust and iniquitous dealings of the 
latter, it has seemed to them that they could not act 
otherwise. They have been infected by the conduct of 
some of the great captains, who, as you know, are devils 
incarnate ; and they have also acted under the influence 
of fear. Mercy, my father ! I ask mercy for them. Pity 
the ignorance of your children ; give them some salutary 

156 Catharine of Siena. 

discipline, if it pleases yoTi : but oh ! grant us peace. . . . 
Come back to your distracted flock and your country, to the 
place of your predecessor, the Apostle Peter. Do not delay 
■ — do not fear ; for God will be with you. ... I should be 
very blamable if I wrote thus to you with the idea of teach- 
ing you a lesson. I am constrained only by love of the 
truth, and the strong desire which I have to see you, gentle 
and beloved father, in peace and quietude, for I see that at 
present you cannot have an hour of either." 

The Pope had hitherto commanded sixty episcopal 
cities in Italy, and one thousand five hundred fortified 
places. These cities were, for the most part, now in- 
cluded in the league of rebellion against him, and his 
dominion was now " reduced to a few meagre strips of 
land." Catharine having despatched her letters to the 
Pope, set herself to write earnest appeals to the govern- 
ments of all the republics Avith whom slie had any per- 
sonal influence. She prevailed with Lucca and Pisa to 
maintain their allegiance to the Pontiflf; and she put 
forth all her strength of persuasion to restrain the Ghi- 
belline leaders of Florence from further violence. Some 
of the gravest of the Florentine citizens, with Nicolas 
Soderini at their head, supported by the ruined and de- 
spondent merchants, determined to wait upon the Eight, 
or Council of War, to beseech them to make terms of 
peace with the Pope. For, it must be observed that the 
former government of Florence had been superseded by 
eight rulers elected by the people, and designated the 
"Eight of War" ("Otto della Guerra"). These men 
were chosen for their resolute and warlike dispositions, 
and promptitude in action. They were members of the 

Her mission of pacification to Floi'ence. 157 

Ghibelline, or popular party. Nicolas Soderini was a 
man of illustrious family, in politics on the side of the 
Ghibellines. He had been chosen as Gonfalonier of Justice 
in 1371, and was held in high esteem by the republic, on 
account of his impartiality and moderation in all political 
contests, and his tried patriotism. The Council of War, 
overawed by this Aveighty deputation, consented to take 
measures for a reconciliation with Gregory. The sincerity 
of their desire for peace was, however, from the first, 
doubted by Soderini. They owed their high position to 
the emergency of the actual revolt, and the prospect of 
continued war. The establishment of peace would be the 
conclusion of their term of power; they had experienced 
the fascinations of office, and, yielding to the dictates of 
selfish ambition, they soon became, as we shall see, very 
half-hearted seconders of those who desired to see an end 
of this disastrous strife. Soderini had heard much of 
Catharine, and believing that her influence with the Pope 
would be greater than that of any of the counsellors of 
Florence or princes of Tuscany, advised that she should be 
invited to act as mediator. The Council of War conse- 
quently commissioned Soderini to go to Siena and negotiate 
this matter with Catharine. Catharine at once left the 
Fullonica and proceeded to Florence. She saw that the 
efforts of man had failed, and she thought she read in the 
appeal to herself, a confession on the part of the Florentines 
that their hopes must now be placed in God and in those 
whose strength is derived from God. The magistrates and 
chief citizens of Florence came out of the city to meet her, 
and conduct her to the house of Soderini, whose guest she 
was to be. 

158 Catharine of Siena. 

It was the middle of the month of May when Catharine 
entered Florence.^ She had been there two years pre- 
viously, to attend a chapter of the Preaching Friars and a 
high festival of the Brothers and Sisters of St. Dominic. 
She could not have failed to contrast the circumstances of 
the two visits. When she first saw Florence, nature was 
smiling and gay, such as those can imagine it who have 
seen that beautiful city in spring ; the bells were ringing, 
and the busy people working in the open air, were singing 
and laughing while at work. All was activity and hopeful 
life. But iww there rested such a blight upon the city as 
we can only picture by endeavouring to understand the 
vast and terrible influence of certain great religious ideas 
or superstitions of the time. The curse which had been 
pronounced acted like the destroying breath of some 
pestilential vapour, blighting the social life of the people, 
drying up the sources of their activities, and isolating them 
from the brotherhood of the world, as outlaws and 
criminals. The fields still bore traces of the war ; the city 
was in deep mourning, and its excommunicated people 
loitered sad and inactive, on the banks of the Arno. That 
river, at other times so alive with the commerce and traflSc 
of all nations, now flowed sullenly beneath its untenanted 
vessels, whose sails drooped idly. The splendid mer- 
chandise which formerly was seen passing to and fro, was 

1 In an old manuscript at Siena, cited by G. P. Burlamacchi in his 
notes upon Catharine's letters, there occur these words — almost the 
only notice we have of her previous visit to Florence: — "There 
came to Florence in May, 1374, during the chapter of the Friar 
Preachers, . . . one dressed in the habit of St. Dominic, whom they 
called Catharine, daughter of Giacomo of Siena. " 

Florence under the Papal Curse. 159 

seen no more ; the storehouses and ateliers were closed, and 
on all sides resounded complaints, weeping, recriminations, 
curses, and cries of revolt. The celebration of the mass and 
all religious services had been interdicted, and the churches 
were forsaken. It is not to be wondered at that all eyes 
should have been directed to that poorly -dressed and fragile 
woman as she entered the city, the mediator elected by the 
Eight of War, on whom all their hopes seemed now to 
depend ; and that curiosity should have prompted crowds 
of people to watch the gateway of Soderini's palace, in 
order to see her as she passed out and in on her diplomatic 
errands to the various political leaders. 

Catharine spent fifteen days in Florence, making herself 
completely mistress of the whole case in which she was 
called to take so prominent a part. Her days were spent 
in consultation with the chiefs of the different parties in 
the republic, in endeavouring to calm the agitation which 
prevailed, and to promote a common agreement upon some 
patriotic and energetic action, which she urged them to 
adopt, apart from all political jealousies among themselves. 
At the end of this time all parties agreed to request her, 
as a favour, to undertake for them a mission of pacification 
to the papal court at Avignon, promising that chosen 
ambassadors should follow her in a few weeks. Catha- 
rine accepted the responsibility. She sent her faithful 
Raymond on in advance to speak with the Pontiflf, and 
prepare him for her arrival. The Florentine republic 
saw no further than the one important object they had 
at heart, the removal of the papal ban, and the restoration 
of their blighted commerce and civil life ; but Catharine 
had larger ends in view. She cherished in her heart the 

160 Catharine of Siena. 

hope of accomplishing three great objects : the restoration 
of peace between the Pope and his revolted subjects, his 
own return to Italy, and the organization of a crusade. 
Although weak and suffering in health, she set out, in 
the first week of June, upon this momentous embassy.^ 
Few details of this journey are preserved. Travelling 
then was slow and difficult, and several weeks Avei'e oc- 
cupied in traversing the route to Avignon. That the 
journey was performed by land appears from the Bull of 
Pius II. for the canonization of Catharine, in which appear 
the words, "to reconcile the Florentines and the Church, 
she did not hesitate to cross the Apennines and the Alps in 
order to reach Gregory, our predecessor." 

We can only imagine what the toils and what the 
pleasures of that journey may have been, along the beau- 
tiful Riviera, passing beyond the maritime Alps and 
the Esterels, by Frejus and Toulon to Marseilles, and 
thence, through the flat and desolate portions of the 
department of the Bouches du Rhone, entering the sunny 
and verdant land of Provence. Catharine, impatient 
to reach her destination, lost no time on the way; but 
Stephen informs us that sometimes when they came 
in sight of a mass of lovely mountain flowers, her face 
would flush with pleasure, and she would call upon her 
fellow-travellers to admire their colours; and that "on 
descrying an anthill she said, * those little creatures came 
from the sacred thought of God ; and he used as much 
care in forming the flowers and insects as in creating 

1 •• Laborem non recusavit, et fiduciam gerens in Domino operia 
exequendi iter assumpsit debilis corpore." — S. Antoninus. 

The Jov/mey to Avignon. 161 

the holy angels.' " A large company travelled with her ; 
among them, Stephen Maconi, who had come with her to 
Florence ; Neri, her secretary ; Felix da Marta ; a certain 
Brother Guido ; Neri dei Pagliaresi ; Nicolo di Mino 
Cicerchi, and John Tantucci, the theological doctor of 
Cambridge, a man of science, who at first had been a 
severe critic of Catharine's actions, "strongly suspecting 
any virtue which did not lie in the line of his own ex- 
perience and attainments," but who became later her earnest 
friend and coadjutor. She was joined by the generous 
brothers Buonconti, from Pisa, who arranged for the ac- 
commodation of the travellers on the many nights they 
were obliged to rest on the journey ; and, finally, three of 
her Mantellatas accompanied her. 



The last long, hot day of journeying was over, and 
the evening dews were falling, when Catharine and her 
friends entered Avignon, on the 18th of June, 1376. Pope 
Gregory had given orders that she should be well re- 
ceived, and he placed at her disposal, for the accommo- 
dation of herself and her friends, the palace of an absent 
cardinal, with the chapel attached to it. After two days 
allowed for repose, Catharine was summoned to the 
presence of Gregory. The papal palace stood on the 
summit of the rock of the Domes, commanding a mag- 
nificent view of the Rhone and the surrovmding country. 
Each succeeding Pope of the " Captivity " had added 
something to its splendour. By the side of this French 
Vatican stood the ancient basilica of Notre-dame-des- 
Doms, on one side of which were the cloisters of Charle- 
magne and on the other the houses of the canons — gothic 
buildings with massive buttresses. The great hall of the 
Consistory and the hall of public audiences had been 
lavishly decorated with paintings and sculpture by Clement 
VI. The galleries of the palace, the broad marble stair- 
cases, the colonnades, the exquisite gardens, with their 

Embassy to Avignon. 163 

fountains and rare flowers, the suites of luxurious apart- 
ments softly cushioned, and perfumed with the most 
delicious odours, have all been described by annalists of 
the Papacy, and praised in the quaint songs of the trouba- 
dours. It was to such a scene of almost oriental luxury 
and magnificence that the poor daughter of the wool- dyer 
of Siena was introduced. After she had ascended the 
winding road leading up the rock of the Domes, she was 
conducted to the hall of the Consistory, where the Pope 
and the cardinals were assembled in solemn state. Gregory 
was majestically seated on a magnificent chair, the cardinals, 
robed in purple, forming a circle round him. The royal 
grandeur of the supreme pontiff must have presented a 
striking contrast to the simplicity and poverty of Catharine, 
attired in her white serge gown and her carefully-patched 
Dominican cloak. Antoninus, in his chronicles of Florence, 
says that there reigned in her the authority of one who 
comes direct from the presence of God, charged with a 
message from him to men. She evinced no timidity or em- 
barrassment in the presence of the princes and potentates 
of earth, for she realized the presence of one greater than 
they, the King of kings, whom she served. Gregory re- 
garded for a moment with silent astonishment this poor 
and self-possessed ambassador from the proud Florentine 
republic, but he saw in her also the generous woman who 
had written to him with so much affectionate candour, giv- 
ing him such wise and severe advice as none of his princely 
counsellors would or could have offered to him. He felt 
her power even before she had spoken. It was evident 
to those who observed the interview that her ascendency 
over the mind of Gregory was complete from the first 

M 2 

164 Caihanne of Siena. 

moment.i She addressed the pontiff in the dialect of 
Tuscany, Raymond acting as interpreter, and Gregory re- 
plied in Latin. After a prolonged conversation, during 
which Catharine exposed in a brief and masterly manner 
the circumstances of the Florentine rebellion, and the 
present condition of mind of the citizens, Gregory said : 
"I commit the treaty of peace wholly to your decision. 
This is a proof to you that I truly desire peace. I wish the 
negotiation to rest entirely in your hands ; and I entrust to 
you the honour of the Church." 

Raymond says that he and the others present at that 
interview can affirm before God and man that the holy 
father committed the treaty of peace and interests of the 
Church into the hands of the Mantellata. Gregory then 
retired, and the cardinals also, the latter to consult together 
concerning the effect upon their own personal interests 
which the spiritual authority of this strange visitor might 
possibly have. 

The Eight of War of Florence had made an engage- 
ment with Catharine to the effect that as soon as she 
should have won the Pope to terms of peace they would 
send several of their weightiest citizens as ambassadors to 
sign the articles of the treaty. But the time passed on, 
and no ambassadors arrived. Morning after morning and 
evening after evening Catharine sent out her scouts, Neri 
and her faithful Stephen, to look for their coming; but 
in vain. Sick at heart, she endeavoured, but with little 
success, to beat back the suspicions which haunted her, 

1 " Veramente assai eflBcace e pronto fu I'imperio di Catarina 
sopra Tanimo del papa."— Capecelatko, Storia di <S'. Catarina e del 
Papato del stio Tempo. 

Embassy to Avignon. 165 

of treachery on the part of the Florentine leaders to the 
cause which they had committed to her. The fidelity of 
Soderini, however, she refused to doubt. " Thou, mine 
own familiar friend, whom I trusted," she said to herself, 
" thou assuredly hast not joined hands with traitors." The 
bitterness of the internal conflict induced by this suspense, 
which lasted several weeks, may be seen in her letters ad- 
dressed at that time to friends in Florence. Immediately 
after her first interview with Gregory she had written, in 
all the joy of her heart, to inform the Eight of War of the 
happy result of that interview, beseeching them to send 
their ambassadors without delay to sign the terms of peace ; 
but she had received no reply ; and meanwhile rumours 
had reached Avignon of a fresh outrage against the Church 
perpetrated by the Eight of War, in the form of an oppres- 
sive tax levied upon the clergy of Florence, which occa- 
sioned the ruin of the humbler priests. She wrote to the 
Eight of War : " I have much reason to complain of you, 
inasmuch as I hear you have put a very heavy tax on the 
clergy. If this be true, it is a great wrong, on two ac- 
counts ; first, because you have no right to do such a thing, 
and cannot do it with a good conscience before God ; and, 
secondly, because by this step you will destroy the hopes 
of the peace which the holy father is ready to conclude. 
He will now only feel a greater indignation than ever 
against you. One of the cardinals, who really desires 
peace, said to me : ' It seems to me that the Florentines are 
not sincere in desiring peace ; for if they were, they would 
avoid at this moment all that is irritating to the Holy See.' 
And I think he is right. You do me personally a great 
wrong, and put me to shame before the world, seeing that I 

166 Catharine of Siena. 

am maintaining one mode of speech while you maintain 
another. I cannot tell you how great was my joy when, 
after a long interview, the holy father said to me, in con- 
clusion, that, if matters at Florence were indeed as I had 
told him, he was, on his part, disposed to do all that you 
wished ; but you are aware that he will not give a public 
and definite answer until the arrival of j^our ambassadors. 
I am astonished that these have not yet joined us. As soon 
as they come I shall see them, and I shall again see the holy 
father, and I will then write to you without delay of the 
results arrived at. But do not go and root up all the good 
seed which has been sown, with your taxes, and your evil 
reports, and your delays. For the love of Christ, consider 
your OAvn best interests ! " She wrote, moreover, to many 
of the most influential citizens, urging them to use their 
influence with the Eight. It became more and more ap- 
parent, however, that the Eight of War, while talking of 
peace, secretly desired to prolong the breach. Gregory 
said one day to Catharine : " Believe me," my daughter, 
" they are playing the part of hypocrites. The ambassadors 
will not come, or if they do, they will come without ample 
powers to treat for peace." And so it proved to be. It 
was not until nearly two years after this that Catharine 
saw the end of her labours attained. Meanwhile she 
began to perceive that this delay, which was so severe a 
trial for herself, and so great a risk for the peace she 
ardently desired, was providentially overruled to serve an 
end yet more important than the immediate conclusion 
of peace between Florence and the Pope. The long weeks 
of her enforced residence at Avignon gave her the op- 
portunity of becoming more intimately acquainted with 

Embassy to Avignon. 167 

Gregory, of sounding his feelings concerning his speedy 
return to Rome, and of maintaining that long and difficult 
conflict M'ith his irresolution and with the opposition of the 
cardinals, which, as we shall see, had to be encountered be- 
fore the great exodus could be accomplished. She laboured 
night and day towards this end. Among her published 
prayers there is one, designated " a prayer made at Avig- 
non," in which she dedicates herself afresh to the service of 
God, and pours forth her heart in sorrowful pleadings for 
her country and for all mankind. She prays also for 
Gregory : " I implore thy boundless mercy, Lord, for thy 
bride, the Church, and I beseech thee to enlighten thy vicar 
on earth, that he may know thy will, and love and obey it. 
Give him, my God, a new heart ; increase thy grace in him ; 
make him strong to bear the standard of the holy cross, 
and dispose him to carry to the infidels the treasures of 
thy mercy, which we have received through the passion 
of the spotless Lamb. Change the hearts of the people 
who desire war, and give us peace, that we perish not." 

The ambassadors arrived at last. Catharine's heart beat 
high with hope, but only for a moment; she perceived at 
the first glance that these were the ambassadors only of 
the Eight of War, and not of the republic of Florence. 
The Pope had given her full powers to treat on behalf of 
the Church, and the Eight of War had engaged to support 
her efforts, and ratify such terms as she should approve. 
She hastened, therefore, to meet them, and, with a smiling 
face, congratulated them on their arrival. They received her 
coldly. Cavaliere Strozzi, speaking for all, said : " We 
have come to confer with the holy father ; we have received 
no power whatever to treat with you;" and they turned 

168 Catharine of Siena. 

their backs on her. Catharine retired to her secret cham- 
ber in the absent cardinal's palace. The weakness of her 
womanhood triumphed for a moment over the courage of 
that robust and heroic spirit, and she wept bitterly. But 
she resorted, as was her wont, to earnest prayer, and arose 
from her knees strengthened to prolong the struggle. The 
letter which she wrote that evening to Buonaccorso di Lapo, 
a powerful citizen of Florence, is full of sadness : " I have 
not been able to confer with your ambassadors, as you 
promised me. You are using strange methods to obtain 
peace : this affair will never be rightly managed except by 
true servants of God, freed from self-love and ambition. 
I have done, and will do all I can, even to death." The 
negotiations between the ambassadors and the Pope had no 
result, except to postpone the conclusion of peace, and the 
former returned to Florence. 

Catharine continued to have frequent audiences with 
Gregory, and with true womanly tact she availed herself 
of these in order to awaken his conscience to a sense of his 
responsibility to his Italian subjects and of the necessity of 
his return to Rome. 

Gregory was a weak and irresolute man. The morality 
of his life has never been impugned. He was naturally 
inclined to good, and, although surrounded on all sides 
by an atmosphere of moral turpitude, he maintained a 
blameless life ; but he was no hero ; he had but little of 
that in him which Catharine so much admired in the 
noblest of her countrymen, the virility, the power of self- 
sacrifice and endurance, of which she so frequently makes 
mention in her letters. He was bom in France, and had 
never been in Italy ; he loved his native land, though 

The Character of Gregon-y. 169 

not exactly as a patriot loves his country ; he enjoyed his 
beautiful residence at Avignon, and yielded to the enervating! 
influences of the luxury and magnificence which surrounded 
him. The scandalous life of some of the cardinals and I 
other prelates gave him pain, but he avoided as much as \ 
possible the knowledge and mention of it. It was not in \ 
him to rebuke or restrain the excesses of his Court, J 
although he never by his acts or words encouraged or made 
light of the prevailing laxity of morals ; he led a life of ease 
and enjoyment, forming at times good resolutions, and 
capable even of enthusiasm when a noble example was for 
a moment presented to him. 

In order to reach the apartments of Gregory, Catharine 
had to pass, with Raymond, through a suite of state rooms, 
unparalleled, it was said, in the whole world for magnificence. 
From the windows they looked out upon a wide expanse of 
undulating country, watered by the Rhone and the Durance, 
studded with lordly castles and bounded by the mountains 
of Beaucaire, and Vjy the hills of Vauclause and the distant 
Alps. Masterpieces of art arrested the eye at every step. 
There were rare manuscripts and gorgeously illuminated 
missals, lying open upon tables of inlaid marbles, or on desks 
of carved oak and ebony. Gregory took pleasure in showing 
his treasures to his Italian visitors. One day Catharine 
remained for a long time apparently engrossed in the study 
of one of these volumes. Gregory had been standing, alone 
and silent by her side ; at last he said, " It is here that I 
find repose for my soul, in study, and in the contemplation 
of nature." She raised her head, looked as it were into his 
soul, and, in a tone of inspiration, said to him, " In the 
name of God, and for the fulfilment of duty, you will closo 

170 Catliarine of Siena. 

the gates of this magnificent palace, you will turn your 
back on this beautiful country, and set out for Rome, where 
you will be amidst ruins, tumults, and malaria fever." ^ 
Gregory's soul was just sufficiently highly tuned to accept 
this call and to prepare himself for martyrdom ; although 
he did so with many sighs. 

But the moment that it became known that a serious 
impression had been made on the Pope in regard to this 
question, an organized and determined opposition com- 
menced. Of the twenty-seven cardinals present at Avig- 
non, three were Italian, one was Spanish, and twenty - 
three were French. The French cardinals abhorred the 
idea of banishment from their native land, and still more 
p of the correction of their immoral lives which such a step, 
I they instinctively felt, would render at least expedient. 
I All the associations of Avignon were dear to them, and 
' Italy seemed full of vague horrors. Even the Italian 
cardinals showed little loyalty towards their country, 
and increased the alarm of the others by their report of 
the tumultuous and revengeful character of their country- 
men. A rumour was set afloat, carefully kept alive, and 
often repeated in the presence of Gregory, that a secret 
plot had been formed at Rome, in connection with the 
revolted cities of the League, to bring the Pope to Ostia 
and there to have him poisoned. Gregory's health was 
feeble, and but for the good Dr. Francis (Francesco), the 
Italian physician of the Court, he would have been made 

1 A r4sum6 of the conversations of Catharine and Gregory was 
found among the papers of Kaymond in the archives of the Domi- 
nicans at Siena. Others of their conversations, and some of her 
prayers, were also written down by Petra, the Pope's stenographer, 
the same who took down the depositions of Friars Thomas and 

St. Biidget, Queen of Sweden. 171 

to believe that the climate of Rome was certain death to 
every Frenchman. The personal hatred of Catharine felt 
by some of the cardinals is easily understood ; for she made 
herself obnoxious to them, not only by her design to put 
an end to the " Babylonish captivity " of the papacy, butj 
by her acute discernment of character, and her fidelity in 
rebuking vice. By Gregory's desire she addressed the 
assembled cardinals and prelates, several times, in the great 
hall of the Consistory ; and curiosity attracted them to 
hear her, where better motives were wanting. All her 
companions seem to have been impressed by the almost 
awful authority with which she spoke on these occasions. 
Her soul was filled with a holy wrath against the abomina- 
tions and vices which prevailed at Avignon, and with which 
the very air seemed to be impregnated ; she had read the 
bitter and fiery remonstrances which St. Bridget, the Queen 
of Sweden, had addressed some ten years previously to 
Gregory, on the scandalous life of the clergy and the 
shameful example set by them. It appears that neither of 
these Christian ladies had any heart to speak softly or to 
prophesy smooth things, when they saw men given up to 
the cruelty of lust, and the weak and the poor entrapped 
and ruined to minister to their shameful pleasure ; for the 
Queen of Sweden, as well as Catharine, used great plainness 
of speech. The former wrote : " Listen, Pope Gregory XL, 
to what the Lord God says to thee : He asks of thee why 
thou dost rebel against him, why thou dost neglect the 
poor, and give indecently of the spoils of earth to thy rich 
ones ; for thy worldly Court is the ruin of the celestial 
Court, the Church. All who come within the influence 
of thy Court fall into the gehenna of perdition ; and in 

172 Catharine of Siena. 

these days, houses of ill-fame are more honoured than my 
holy Church." i 

Catharine was requested one day by Gregory to speak 
to the Consistory on the subject of the Church. Looking 
round upon that magnificent Court, and on the faces of 
those men, which were far from bearing the impress of pure 
and saintly lives, she asked why she found in the Pon- 
tifical Court, in which all the virtues ought to flourish, 
nothing but the contagion of the most disgraceful vices. 
The Court remained silent, and Catharine waited for a 
reply. Gregory then asked how she had come to the 
knowledge of what went on in his Court, seeing she had 
been so short a time in Avignon, and lived so much 
apart. He then, amidst murmured approvals, attempted 
to soften the stern judgment which she had expressed. 
Catharine had been maintaining a humble posture before 
the Pope ; but she " left that position," says Raymond, 
"and assumed an air of authority which astonished 
everyone." Standing erect, she raised her thin white 
hand to heaven, and said : " I declare, in the name of 
Almighty God, that I perceived more distinctly the 
horrors of the sins which are committed in this Court, 
while I was yet in my little room at Siena than even 
those do who are in the midst of these vices." " The Pope 
remained silent," says Raymond ; " I could not overcome 
my surprise, and shall never forget the tone of authority 
with which Catharine spoke to that great audience." 
Even after this, Catharine, says Stephen, " frequently 
delivered most eloquent discourses as well as highly 

1 "Quia jam nunc magis veneratur lupaiiar quam sancta mater 
Ecclesia " — Letterx of St, Brkli/et. 

Proven^l Singers and Ladies. 173 

practical ones in the presence of Gregory and the cardinals, 
and there reigned so great an authority and so wonderful a 
grace in her lips that all declared, 'Never man spake like 
this woman ; ' and many said, ' It is not a woman that 
speaks, but the Holy Spirit himself. ' " 

But there were in the Papal Court more subtle and 
dangerous antagonists than the prelates, who opposed 
the scheme of the return to Italy. These antagonists 
were the great ladies of the Court, the elegant leaders of 
fashion. " The most brilliant and beautiful of the women 
of Provence, attracted to the Court of Avignon, had 
established since the reign of Clement V. a real influence 
there — an influence, unfortunately, too often dangerous 
or criminal." Courtiers and ecclesiastics, seeking places 
and benefices, knew that their only chance of success 
lay in the personal favour of Madame Miramonde de 
Maul6on, or Cecile des Baux, or En^monde de Bour- 
bon, niece of Innocent VI., or Briande d'Agout, whose 
wit was as captivating as her beauty, or Lauretta di 
Sada, or Est6phanette de Romanin, Proven9al poets and 
singers as well as graceful leaders at Court. ^ To one or 
other of these it was necessary to pay assiduous court in 
order to succeed in that world of pleasure and ambition. 
This " voluptuous academy " had been all in a flutter 
since the arrival of Catharine. At first the ladies left her 
unnoticed, or merely regarded her with languidly critical 
or insolent glances as she passed through the sumptuous 
corridors to the papal audience chamber. "She is very 

^ " Ces deux dames qui romansoyent promptement en toute sorte 
de rithnie provensalle, les ceuvres desquelles rendent ample t^moig- 
nage de leur doctrine." — Vies des plus Celebrea Poetes Froven^atiXf 
Jean de Nostkadamcs. 

174 Catharine of Siena. 

peculiar ; " "she has no beauty to speak of ; " " how odd is 
her dialect ; " " it would be amusing to hear her conversa- 
tions with the holy father." These and similar remarks 
expressed the slight estimation in which she was held by 
the Court ladies, who entirely failed to comprehend her 
character, motives, and mission. But the cardinals and 
others began to speak of Catharine as of one whose words 
carried weight. The brother of the King of France, the 
chivalrous Duke of Anjou, had come from Paris, at the 
instigation of the French King, to dissuade Gregory from 
leaving his native land, and to express the unwillingness of 
the French Government and Court to allow him to transfer 
the Papal Government to Eome. Gregory's reply to the 
duke was, " I beseech you, cousin, to speak with Catharine 
of Siena." The result of the conference of the duke with 
Catharine was that he became one of her most ardent dis- 
ciples, that he accepted her view of the duty of the Pontiff 
to return to Italy, and that his soul became enflamed with 
the desire, inspired by her, of becoming the leader of the 
crusaders to the Holy Land. The good and gentle wife of 
the Duke of Anjou was out of health, and suffering greatly 
The moral atmosphere of Avignon did not please her, 
and her husband took her to his beautiful residence at 
Villeneuve, the Versailles of Avignon. The duchess 
had become enamoured of Catharine's character even 
before she had seen her, and she now earnestly en- 
treated that she would pay her a visit at Villeneuve. 
Catharine gladly accepted the invitation, and remained 
many days there, enjoying the lovely country around, 
wandering in the woods or by the river, and spending 
many hours by the couch of her invalid friend. This 

High-born Dames of Avignon. 175 

honourable pair, the duke and duchess, became, in all 
sincerity, the humble followers of Christ. France had been 
exhausted by the long war with England, which as yet was 
not concluded. The Duke of Anjou now earnestly invited 
Catharine to go with him to Paris to see the King, Charles 
v., in order to persuade him to put an end to the war. 
Catharine respectfully but firmly declined. She did not 
recognize it to be a duty to undertake such a journey, and she 
had no desire to be further familiarized with the life of courts. 
These facts reached the ears of the ladies of Avignon, and 
created much excitement among them. This singular woman 
was beginning to exercise an influence more powerful 
than their own, though of a very different nature. "What 
could it mean? what shall our part be?" they asked 
among themselves. Obviously, they must set themselves 
to oppose the mad design of abolishing Avignon ; for 
to withdraw the Sovereign Pontiff was to bring to an 
end the splendid world over which they reigned. This 
would not be a task of great difficulty; so much power 
and influence, so much skill and art would be brought 
to bear upon it. With the exquisite tact and management 
which belong to high-born ladies, they therefore set 
themselves to combat the influence of the Popolana of 
Siena, acting, however, in a manner wholly different from 
that of the prelates and ecclesiastical courtiers. They 
took Catharine under their protection, and patronized 
her with the sweetest aristocratic grace. They made 
religion the fashion ; in place of balls and tournaments 
they instituted afternoon parties for pious conversation, 
edifying recitals, and penitential music. The Pope's 
sister, the affable and graceful Countess of Valentinois, 

176 Catharine of Siena. 

was the leader of this organized assault upon the stern 
simplicity and moral fortitude of the Mantellata. She be- 
sought Catharine to pay her a visit in her own apartments 
in order that she might confer with her on those beautiful 
truths of which she had spoken in the hall of the Consistory ; 
and at the close of their first interview she whispered in 
her ear, with that soft tone of voice which she believed the 
" mystics " assumed, " Ah ! how happy should I be if I 
could assist at some of your exercises of piety. At what 
hours do you pray in the chapel ? " Catharine had attended 
one of the liturgical festivals in the great basilica of the 
rock of the Domes, which perplexed her spirit and confused 
her senses, accustomed to the comparative simplicity of the 
offices of her own church of St. Dominic of Siena, and to 
the silence and poverty of her room at the Fullonica. The 
whole Court attended these high festivals. The Pope 
presided, robed in a cope of magnificent tissue of cloth of 
gold, of English manufacture ; a silver mitre on his head, 
from which hung pendants of crimson silk ; his feet, in 
gi'een velvet slippers, resting upon a cushion also of green 
velvet, veined with gold ; his hands in gloves of cloth of 
silver, embroidered with gold and pearls, and with the 
words Jesu and Marie worked upon the back in very 
fine emeralds. He was seated upon a Byzantine throne of 
white marble, under a dais of crimson velvet. His deacon 
and sub-deacon stood by his side in robes of scarlet cloth 
covered with gold needlework ; the cardinals were ranged 
in two lines, with their white mitres and scarlet copes, 
embroidered, as was also that of the Pope, with Jieurs de 
lis, peacocks, and griffins, in gold and precious stones. 
The floor of the church was spread with rich Flemish 

Unsuccessful Manceuwes. 177 

carpets representing stories from the Bible, and from the 
roof hung great candelabra of gold and silver. The altar 
was draped with fine linen, embroidered with gold and 
emeralds. The light of the lamps was reflected from 
thousands of jewels, the perfumes of the most exquisite 
incense ascended from a hundred vases of massive silver, 
the harmonies of the choral liturgies rose and fell, and the 
whole formed an influence intoxicating to the senses and 
ravishing to the souls of those who believed such sacrifice to 
be really acceptable to God. Catharine preferred the more 
modest worship of the chapel attached to the residence 
allotted to her ; and thither the Court ladies followed her 
for a short time, having gracefully bribed Stephen to inform 
them privately of the hours when Catharine might be foimd 
there absorbed in prayer. The gentle rustling of their silk 
robes did not disturb her collected spirit ; but it Avas hoped 
that on rising to leave the chapel, she might be touched 
by the sight of the kneeling forms in remote comers of 
the sanctuary, bowed in beautiful penitence before the 
sculptured saints. Honest Father Eaymond confesses him- 
self that he was deceived by these delicate arts ; he was 
" moved by such unexpected signs of grace ;" he even ex- 
pressed admiration of the beautiful costumes, the elegant 
sweeping trains, and graceful curtsies of the grandes dames ; 
he also thought it well to expostulate with Catharine on her 
want of gratitude. "In truth, it is not good in you, dear 
mother, to be indiff'erent to such courtesy ; all the great 
ladies make profound reverences to you when they meet 
you, and you turn away your head; when they approach 
you with amiable words about religion you reply roughly, 
'we must first get out of the pit of hell and out of the 


178 Catharine of Siena. 

grasp of the devil, and then we will speak of God ;' and 
straightway you fly from their presence. I find it difficult 
to forgive you, above all, for the manner in which you 
received that beautiful lady the other day, who wished to 
entertain you at her house; you scarcely even looked at her. 
Is it well to treat your fellow-creatures thus?" Kaymond, 
disposed, in his kindliness of heart, to think well of all, 
understood more imperfectly than Catharine the private 
character of many of those of whom he spoke. Her answer 
was almost rude : "Father, if you could know, as I do, the 
vileness which proceeds out of the beautiful mouths of these 
proud mistresses of the cardinals, you would vomit forth 
the remembrance of it."^ The eyes of the indulgent con- 
fessor were rudely opened, however, by several proofs of 
petty malice on the part of the disappointed intriguers. 
Elys de Beaufort-Turenne, the vain and pretty niece of the 
Pope, seeing her uncle in profound meditation after an inter- 
view with Catharine, and suspecting that his thoughts were 
bent upon the return to Italy, conceived a desire to settle 
the question in a fashion of her own. She followed Catha- 
rine to the church, and, feigning a deep devotion, she 
prostrated herself by her side, and pierced her foot with 
a small stiletto; either she had not the courage to strike 
a more vital part, or her intention was limited to the in- 
fliction of pain. Catharine limped from the church in 
great agony, leaving the traces of the bleeding foot on 
the pavement, and continued lame for some time, although 

1 " Quaidam mulier quae erat cujusdam magni prailati ecclesiae 
concubina quum loqueretur cum ea . . . Si sensissetis foetorem 
quein ego ex ilia sentiebam dum loqueretur mihi, evomuissetis 
quidquid habuissetis in ventre." — S. Antoninus, Chronicon. 

She addresses the Consistory of Cardinals. 179 

at the moment that the wound was inflicted she took no 
notice of it, but remained immovable in prayer. 

Catharine continued, at the request of Gregory, to hold 
conferences in the hall of the Consistory. The study of the 
Scriptures had passed out of use at Avignon ; but Catha- 
rine's discourses were invariably founded upon some portion 
of the holy Word. "Her insight and clearness of inter- 
pretation astonished the learned doctors," and in her ardent 
love of the truths of which she spoke, she would become 
almost unconscious of the presence of persons of authority 
in the Church, and her countenance would glow with joyful 
emotion, so that they looked upon her face "as it had been 
the face of an angel," Three prelates of very high rank, 
who had been absent from Avignon when Catharine arrived, 
came to Gregory and asked, " Holy Father, is this Catha- 
rine of Siena really as saintly as is pretended 1 " Gregory 
replied, "Truly I believe she is a saint." "If it please your 
Holiness, we will go and pay her a visit," they added 
" I think," answered the Pope, " you will be extremely 
edified." The following account of the interview is given 
by Stephen, in his letter written by request to be pro- 
duced at the canonization of Catharine, and afterwards 
placed, with the other testimonies, in the Amplissima 
Collectio of Dom Martene. "Now coming to our house 
towards nine o'clock, the prelates knocked at ou r door. 
It was in summer. I ran to open to them. * Give Catha- 
rine notice,' they said, ' that we wish to speak to her.' 
Immediately the Blessed came down, with Friar John 
(of Cambridge) and several other friends. The prelates 
bade her be seated. She sat down beside them on the 
terrace. Then they began speaking to her in a haughty 


180 Catharine of Siena. 

tone and with biting words, endeavouring to irritate or 
wound her. ' We come from our lord the Pope,' they said, 
* and we wish to know whether the Florentines did actually 
send you to him as is pretended. If they did send you, it 
proves that they have not a man among them of sufficient 
ability to treat of such important business with so great a 
potentate. If they did not send you, we are amazed that an 
insignificant little woman such as you should presume to 
converse with his Holiness on so high an affair.' i Catharine, 
always calm, answered them humbly, but in a manner which 
clearly excited their surprise. After she had fully satisfied 
them on this point they proposed to her some very difficult 
and subtle questions, especially on the subject of her own 
intimate converse with heaven, asking her to explain the 
meaning of the apostle's words when he declares that Satan 
transforms himself into an angel of light, and desiring to 
know how she could prove that her own revelations were 
not delusions of the demon. The conference lasted till 
late in the night, and I was witness of it. Catharine spoke 
with marvellous prudence and wisdom. Friar John Tan- 
tucci, who was a doctor of theology of Cambridge, often 
desired to reply for Catharine ; but, in spite of his learn • 
ing, the prelates were so skilful that they contrived to 
beat him in argument, and at last said to him, ' You 
should be ashamed to argue so in our presence ; let her 
reply ; she satisfies us better than you do.' One of the 
prelates was an archbishop of the Minor Friars, a hard 

1 " Si vero non te miserunt, valde mirainur, cum tu sis vilis fe 
mella, quia praesumis de tanta materia loqui cum domino nostro 
Papa."— DoM Marten jc. 

Disputes with Doctors of the Church. 181 

man, who disputed with a pharisaical pride ; he would not 
accept in good faith what Catharine said, and wrested her 
words. The two others finally turned upon him, and said : 
* Why question her any longer ? She has answered all 
these things more clearly than any doctor among us could 
have done.' Then the dispute came to be between these two 
and the archbishop. At last they withdrew, and reported 
to the Pope that they had never found so humble and en- 
lightened a soul. But Gregory, when he learned the next 
morning how the prelates had treated Catharine, was ex- 
tremely pained and mortified, and sent an apology to her, 
assuring her that the prelates had acted entirely on their 
own initiative, and that he had not given them any kind of 
commission to do what they had done, and recommending 
her to refuse to see them if they should come again. In 
the evening. Master Francis, the Pope's physician, said to 
me, ' Do you know who those prelates are ? ' ' No,' I 
replied. ' Well,' said he, ' know, that if the learning of 
these three were put in one scale of the balance, and that 
of the whole Koman Church in the other, the acquirements 
of these three would outweigh the others ; and if they had 
not found Catharine so solid in knowledge and wisdom it 
would have been the worse for her.'" 

Catharine was yet to be further tried by the irresolu- 
tion of Gregory. The Cardinals revolted openly against 
the scheme of the return to Italy. They cited as a pre- 
cedent the conduct of Clement IV., who never undertook 
any important matter without taking the votes of the 
whole college of cardinals, and declared that Gregory 
was not justified in acting independently. They threat- 
ened vaguely a schism in the Church and a revolution at 

182 Catharine of Siena. 

Court. Catharine daily contested all their arguments with 
Gregory. " They tell you of the example of Clement IV.," 
she said ; "but they say nothing of Urban V., who, when 
he became convinced that a certain course of action was 
right, never consulted anyone." Tried to the utmost by 
the weakness and vacillation of the Pontiff, whom, how- 
ever, on account of his gentleness, she sincerely loved, as a 
mother loves a faltering and tempted son, she withdrew for 
a season from his presence, and was no longer seen in the 
Vatican of the rock of the Domes. She entered into the 
secret presence of her Saviour, and her soul passed once 
more through that baptism of strong desire, of tears, and 
of passionate intercession, by the strength of which she 
ever achieved her wonderful conquests in the kingdom of 
grace, and over the souls of men with whom persuasion 
and argument had failed. In those solitary hours her gaze 
was fixed far beyond the present, and her heart embraced 
all the sorrows of earth, while, like the prophets of old, she 
prayed that the great deliverance might be hastened, and 
cried to him who is the Desire of all nations, "Even so. 
Lord Jesus, come quickly ! " 

Tormented with conflicting emotions, Gregory, who had 
noticed with pain her absence from the Court, again sent 
for her. She went to him at once. In a perturbed 
manner he asked of her " her opinion concerning his 
return to Rome," as though that opinion had never been 
expressed. Catharine maintained silence for a time, 
allowing Gregory to become more and more urgent 
in demanding her verdict on the subject. At last she 
humbly excused herself, saying that it did not become 
a poor ignorant woman like her to give advice to the 

site reminds Gregory of his Secret Vow. 183 

Sovereign Pontiflf, who had around him so many able coun- 
sellors. Gregory moved uneasily in his chair, perplexed 
as to her meaning, and beginning to tremble lest his best 
adviser, his guardian angel, — disgusted with his pusillani- 
mity, — should have forsaken him. He said, after a con- 
siderable pause, " Catharine, I do not ask you to give me 
advice ; I ask you to declare to me the ivill of God." Still 
she continued her reserve : she had already declared to 
him the will of God, and he had still hesitated to obey. 
She understood when to speak, and when to keep silence : 
she knew that to multiply words, even in the holiest cause, 
is often to weaken the spiritual force which impels the soul 
of man in the direction of that cause. At last Gregory 
said : " I command you, in the name of obedience, to tell 
me what is the will of God in this matter." She bowed her 
head, and replied : " Who knows more perfectly the will 
of God than your holiness, who has pledged himself by a 
secret vow "i " At these words Gregory started, and re- 
mained silent with astonishment ; for he believed that no 
one but himself knew that he had taken a vow when under 
the influence of the letters of the Queen of Sweden, to return 
to Rome. From that moment his mind was made up. He 
now took Catharine fully into his confidence, and, with a 
softened heart, entreated her advice on all the details of 
the great undertaking. She counselled him to resort to a 
" pious stratagem ; " to cease to speak of the great question 
in the presence of the cardinals and Court, but to entrust 
the needful preparations confidentially to the Duke of 
Anjou, and other discreet and trusty servants. She ad- 
vised that, having acted so as to allow the opposition to 
subside, and having made all ready, he should suddenly 

184 Catharijie of Siena. 

announce, in the most public and decided manner, his 
determination to start for Italy, and that he should take 
care that the briefest possible time should intervene be- 
tween this announcement and his departure. Gregory 
accepted the advice and acted upon it- 
Catharine had now accomplished her social mission, and 
with a deep sense of relief she prepared to return to her be- 
loved home in Siena. But Gregory, who had now learned 
to doubt the force of his own resolutions, prayed her not to 
depart a single day before he himself set out for Italy. She 
therefore consented to remain. The interval was employed 
by her chiefly in correspondence concerning the crusade. 
She wrote several letters to Bernabos Visconti, hoping to 
turn the ill-applied energies of that fierce warrior in a direc- 
tion in which they would at least cease to be a curse and a 
terror to his countrymen. She wrote again to the true- 
hearted Queen of Hungary, whose country was contimially 
invaded by hordes of Turks. She also wrote to the King 
of France, pleading hard for peace with England, and repre- 
senting to him the sufferings caused by war, to the aged, 
to women, and to children. She had some correspondence 
also of a more private nature. The mother of her friend 
and secretary, Stephen Maconi, had written to reproach 
him with the length of his absence from home. Catharine 
wrote in reply: "Take courage, dear lad}'^ ; be patient, 
and do not distress yourself because I have kept him too 
long ; I have watched over him well ; for affection has 
made of us two but one, and all your interests are mine. 
I wish to do for him and for you all that I can, even to 
death. You, his mother, have borne him once ; and I — 
I travail again in birth, every day, not for him onl}-, but 

Letter to her Mother. 185 

for you and all your family, offering to God without ceas- 
ing, and with tears and anguish, my strong desire for your 

Lapa also complained of her beloved daughter's pro- 
longed absence, and Catharine replied to her in a long letter, 
which appears to have been sent from Genoa on the return 
home from Avignon; in common with many others, it bears 
no date, and only an approximate date can be assigned 
to it : " If I have remained long, my beloved mother, it has 
been by the will of God, and not by my own, or by the will 
of man ; if anyone tells you to the contrary, he is mistaken ; 
for I tell you the truth. I must follow the path which God 
indicates to me by his providence ; and you, my dear, sweet 
mother — you ought to be content, and not unwilling to 
suffer something for the honour of God .... Remember 
how you used to act when it was a question of our temporal 
interests, when your sons often took long journeys and were 
absent for a length of time on business, and in order to 
make money ; and now, when it is a question of the things 
which concern our eternal life, you pine so much, and tell 
me you will die if I do not soon come home ; this is 
because you love the mortal part of me more than the 
immortal part." 

The hour of the departure was at hand. All was ready. 
The Pope's announcement of his determination had been 
made ; he had continued firm, in spite of the cry of dis- 
may and grief which arose from the splendid circles which 
adorned that " earthly paradise," as the courtiers were 
pleased to call Avignon. The severest trial which Gregory 
experienced was the opposition of his father, an aged man, 
who, when he heard of the determination formed by his son, 

186 Catharine of Siena. 

waited for him at the door of his bedroom, and when he 
appeared, threw himself at his feet and dung to his knees, 
uttering a shriek which echoed through the whole palace. 
" Can it be," he cried, " that I shall never see again my own 
flesh and blood H How couldst thou deceive, not only thy 
country but thy own father. Thou art going to encounter 
unheard-of dangers ! Thou shall not leave this palace, except 
over the body of thy father, slain with grief." But Gregory 
rose for a moment to the height of heroism : he gently 
raised his father and replied, solemnly, " God hath spoken : 
he will enable me to overcome all dangers and trials." 

Catharine had negotiated, at the suggestion of Gregory, 
for the preparation of three galleys at Marseilles, with- 
out communicating the fact to anyone. On the 13th 
of September, 1376, the gates of the papal palace at 
Avignon were opened long before sunrise, and an un- 
wonted excitement was seen to prevail ; for on that 
day Gregory was to set out to restore the glory of the 
papacy to Kome. The people of Avignon stood in 
crowds around, mute and displeased. The Pope's favourite 
horse on which he rode forth, reared at the gate of the 
palace, and backed, to the risk of the rider's life. Three 
times it repeated this capricious performance ; and finally 
the pontifical grooms forced it back, with many curses, 
to its stall, and brought out another horse for his Holi- 
ness to ride. This was regarded as an extremely evil 
omen, but Gregory maintained his presence of mind and 
resolution. The details of this remarkable journey, this 
" Odyssey of the fourteenth century," have been preserved 
to us in the rhythmical account written by Peter Amely, a 
romantic Proven9al singer, who held the post of chaplain 

The Departure from Avignon. 187 

to the Pope, and accompanied him on his journey. This 
account is quoted by De Malan in his " Life of St. Catha- 
rine." The poem is affected and prolix ; but a translation 
of portions of it will enable us to realize, better than the 
description given by any other chronicler, the temper of 
mind in which the exiles quitted France. 

"On Tuesday, the 13th of September, Gregory XI. left 
the palace, with the cardinals, mounted on white horses 
sumptuously caparisoned. Chariots followed, loaded with 
treasure ; then came the chaplains and domestic servants of 
the Pope, and the carriages of the cardinals and of the suite. 
Armed knights, with equerries, soldiers, and valets, headed 
and followed up the rear of the cortSge which traversed the 
soiTowing city. We reached Orgon, an arid and stony dis- 
trict, where vegetation is scanty. We spent the first night 
in this uncomfortable abode. ... On Wednesday we 
arrived, shortly before sunset, at the royal city of Aix. 
There everji-thing pleased the eye : the beauty of the coun- 
try around, the splendour of the palaces, and the hilarity of 
the citizens, who came out in crowds to meet the Prince of 
the Apostles. The aged bishop of Aix, accompanied by his 
numerous clergy, came in procession to receive the Sove- 
reign Pontiff, whom they conducted through the streets, 
which were carpeted with bright-coloured silk fabrics, and 
thickly strewed with flowers. On Friday, after crossing a 
chain of rugged hills, we halted a few hours at Trets, where 
a sumptuous repast was prepared for us. We continued 
our course, and spent the night at Saint-Maximin. ... On 
Saturday we arrived, by a rough and rocky road, at Auriol, 
a little town picturesquely situated in a fertile country of 
corn and vines. Towards evening, as we pursued our wayj 

188 Catharine of Siena. 

an immense and rejoicing crowd which met us, carrying 
torches and banners, and accompanied by music and sing- 
ing, announced that we were approaching Marseilles. Alas ! 
we began already to be tormented by the cruel heat of the 
south, which was made more suffocating by the pressure of 
the multitudes of people. . . . The next morning the 
north wind, however, was blowing freshly, and the gentle 
Pontiff came forth from the matin service in the abbey of 
St. Victor, and entered the magnificent galley which was 
waiting for him. Ah ! how was my heart torn at the 
thought of bidding adieu to my native land ! Sighs and 
lamentations resounded on every side ; all were sobbing ; 
the Pontiff himself wept. The wind was favourable then ; 
but what happened afterwards I must record." 

This account of the voyage, narrated by the sentimental 
poet of Provence, enables us to realize the slowness and 
difficulty of travelling in those times, compared with the 
rapid transit possible in our own days, from country to 
country, and even from one hemisphere to another. The 
summer had been fine, but the autumn was peculiarly 
unfavourable for the expedition, and the faint hearts of 
the unwilling exiles almost failed before the voyage was 
half completed. A succession of storms, accompanied 
with thunder and lightning, and lowering skies, tried their 
spirits to the utmost, and delayed their passage. It seems 
hardly credible that this journey from Marseilles to Rome 
should have extended over three months, owing to the 
severe storms, frequent pauses, and prolonged delays 
while waiting for the vexed sea to become calm. " We 
set sail," continues Peter Am6ly, "amidst the lamenta- 
tions of the Marseillais. At Saint-Nazaire we stopped and 

Stormy Voyage to Villafranca. 189 

landed to dine, and embarked again. Towards evening the 
sky darkened, the wind howled, and a horiible tempest 
arose, which forced us to land again upon a desolate part of 
the coast, where there was not a single habitation. A pelt- 
ing rain, thunder and lightning, and furious winds made us 
believe that death was at hand for us. We all huddled 
together, trembling and in consternation. But in a few 
hours the storm passed over, and a strong wind carried us 
rapidly into the harbour of Toulon. We encountered a 
second tempest, worse than the first, off the coast of Frejus. 
Even the mariners turned pale, and the passengers moaned, 
calling upon St. Cyriac. We ran rapidly, however, with 
the wind, past the Isle of St. Marguerite, and in the even- 
ing arrived in safety at Antibes, where we joyfully landed. 
On Thursday, October the 9th, the storm continued. We 
passed by Nice, and entered the sunny port of Villafranca 
with indescribable joy. We had suffered the utmost horrors 
of sea-sickness, and now fell like famished men upon the 
excellent viands prepared for us, and afterwards slept 
peacefully. On Friday we again set sail, although the 
sea was tempestuous. We had reached the point of 
Monaco, when the pilot declared that it would be dan- 
gerous to proceed, and we were compelled to put back 
to Villafranca. Before we regained that port the stern 
of the galley was broken, and the sails torn to pieces. The 
pontifical valets discharged all of the most valuable articles 
into the small boats. All was in confusion : one could 
hear nothing but the roaring of the waves, heartrending 
cries, and angry vociferations. Who can describe what 
we endured 1 But the next day the sea was more calm. 
' lily of pontiffs ! ' we said, ' behold how the sun shines 

190 Catharine of Siena. 

forth ! All nature seems again to smile, and thy servants 
salute thee in the delicious city of Savona.' " 

Catherine had parted from Gregory at Avignon, to pursue 
a route of her own, with her companions, to Toulon. Her 
journey was much more expeditious than that of the Pontiff: 
it was unimpeded by regrets, murmurings, or hesitations. 
She set out with a cheerful heart, and full of hope. Gregory 
had given her a hundred florins for the expense of the 
journey, to which the Duke of Anjou had added a hundred 
francs, — not a mean present in those days, even from a 
duke. She remained for two days at Toulon. She and 
her companions arrived there towards evening, when she 
immediately retired to her room to pray, as was her un- 
varying custom at the evening hour. " We had been 
careful," says Raymond, " to say nothing of her arrival in 
the town ; but the very stones seemed to proclaim it," 
They had not been there an hour, when a numerous multi- 
tude of women gathered round the door of the inn, asking 
where the saint was who had come from the pontifical court. 
The hostler having confessed that she was there, it became 
impossible to keep back the crowd ; for now men also came 
in great numbers, pressing round the circle of women, and 
desiring to see Catharine, if but for one moment. For from 
the secret heart of the poor, hungry multitudes arises again 
and again the protest that it is not by bread alone that man 
lives. The mass of men will strangely and strongly at 
times incline towards one whom they believe has dwelt in 
a peculiar manner in the presence of God, and who can 
impart some knowledge of that hidden well of living 
water for which humanity thirsts, even when apparently 
satisfied with the turgid fountains of the world's pleasures 

Her Halt at Toulon. 191 

and interests. The foremost among the women pressed 
into the vestibule of the inn ; but Catharine remained con- 
cealed in her chamber. One of the women, who was very 
retiring and careworn in appearance, carried in her arms 
her sick baby, a pitiful object, but her treasure. She be- 
sought the friends of Catharine that she would take the 
infant in her arms and cure it ; " for," she said, " she has 
power with God, and can heal diseases : she can restore to 
me my baby which is dying." The message was taken to 
Catharine, but she declined to undertake this, or to appear; 
for she dreaded the publicity of the occasion. But the 
entreaties and sobs of the poor mother, whose petitions 
were seconded by the other women, were too much for her 
compassionate heart : she came out of her chamber, and 
said, " Where is the little one 1 " The mother pressed for- 
ward, and Catharine, full of pity, took the baby in her 
arms, and, pressing it to her breast, she prayed earnestly 
and with tears to him who said, " Suffer the little children 
to come unto me." From that moment the child revived, 
and the whole city was witness of its rapid return to 
health, and of the joy of the poor mother. The Bishop of 
Toulon, hearing of this event, sent for Raymond, and 
earnestly requested him to obtain for him an interview 
with Catharine. 

Catharine arrived at Genoa, and there waited several 
days for Gregory. The papal galleys must needs stop at 
Genoa for water and repairs ; and she knew instinctively 
that the Pope would require to imbibe, when there, a fresh 
stock of courage and resolution. As the days passed on, 
and the vessels from Mai-seilles did not appear, fears began 
to visit her tried soul. She knew Gregory's weakness, and 

192 Catharine of Siena. 

the sullen, unwilling spirit of many of the companions of 
his exile from France. The elements, too, had seemed to 
oppose themselves to the return to Rome ; and she pictured 
to herself in imagination all that Gregory might have had 
to suffer, from the voyage and from the complainings of 
those around him, and dreaded lest the trial might be 
greater than his faltering courage could endure. In the 
collection made of Catharine's prayers, is one entitled, " A 
Prayer offered up at Genoa, when waiting for the Arrival 
of Gregory XL," in which she beseeches that God will 
pardon all the weaknesses of the Pontiff; that he will 
deliver him from the timid counsels of those who would 
hold him back from the performance of duty, and inspire 
him with a true love for souls, and readiness to suffer all 
things for the welfare of the Church. It was thus that she 
waited, praying without ceasing for the consummation of 
that for which she had laboured, and which she believed to 
be in accordance with the will of God. 


Catharine and her friends remained more than a month at 
Genoa, at the house of an honourable lady named Orietta 
Scott. Stephen says, in his deposition : " We were nearly 
all sick while there. Neri di Landoccio fell ill the first. 
He suffered dreadful pain ; he could neither lie in bed nor 
stand up, but would crawl about on his hands and knees all 
night when other people rested, and thus increased his pains. 
When Catharine heard of it she was filled with compassion, 
and ordered Father Raymond to call in the best medical 
aid. He promptly brought two skilful physicians, who pre- 
scribed for Neri, but he became no better." Raymond says : 
" We were all at dinner when the news came to us that 
Neri was rather worse than better. Stephen ceased to eat ; 
he looked very sad, and, leaving the table, went straight 
to Catharine's room. He threw himself at her feet, and 
with tears adjured her not to suffer his dear friend, who 
had undertaken this journey for God and for her, to die far 
from his family, and be buried in a strange city. Catha- 
rine was deeply affected ; she said : ' If God wills, Stephen, 
that your friend should thus early reap the reward of his 
labours, you ought not to be afflicted, but rather to rejoice.' 
But Stephen insisted : ' dearest, kindest mother, hear 
my request. You can do it if you will ; you can obtain this 


194 Catharine of Siena. 

favour from God,' Catharine replied, with a look full of 
pity, ' I only exhorted you to conform to God's will. To- 
morrow, when I go to receive the Communion, remind me 
of your request, and I will pray to the Lord for Neri ; and 
meanwhile do you pray without ceasing for his recovery.' 
Stephen did not fail to throw himself in her path as she 
went to the church, and said : ' Mother, I entreat you not 
to deceive my expectations.' Catharine remained an un- 
usually long time in the church, in prayer. When she re- 
turned, she smiled on Stephen, who was waiting for her, 
and said, ' Be of good cheer, my son ; you have obtained the 
favour you have sought.' Stephen, not quite able to believe 
for joy, eagerly asked, ' Will Neri get well 1 ' ' Undoubtedly 
he will,' Catharine replied. Stephen hastened to the bed- 
side of his friend. He found the physicians there, who 
said, ' Although we had given up all hope, his symptoms 
have changed within the last hour, and we can now entertain 
hope of his recovery.' " In a few days Neri was quite 
well. But Stephen, worn out by his fatigues in nursing the 
patients, and by his anxiety about his beloved friend, was 
attacked by a violent fever. " As everyone loved him," 
says Raymond, " we resorted to him to try and console 
him, and all nursed him by turns." Stephen himself gave 
the following account of it : " Catharine came, with her 
companions, to pay me a visit, and asked me what I 
was suffering. I, quite delighted at her sweet presence, 
answered gaily, ' They say I am ill ; but I do not know 
what it is.' She placed her hand on my forehead; and 
shaking her head and smiling, she said, ' Do you hear 
how this child answers me ? — They say that I am ill, 
but I do not know of what ; — and he is in a violent fever ! ' 

Delay and Suspense. 195 

then she added, addressing me : ' But, Stephen, I do not 
allow you to be ill ; you must get up and wait upon the 
others as before.' She then conversed with us about God, 
as usual, and as she was speaking I began to feel quite well. 
I interrupted her to tell them so, and they were all in 
astonishment, and very glad. I arose from my bed the same 
day, and I have enjoyed perfect health since that time." 

We left speaking of the papal expedition at the moment 
of its arrival at Savona. After many delays the galleys 
bearing the exiles from Avignon entered the port of Genoa 
on the 13th of October. Catharine welcomed Gregory 
joyfully, but quickly perceived by his countenance that the 
conflict had been renewed between his better nature and 
his fears, the latter seconded by the influence of the 
cardinals. During the delay of ten days in Genoa, to 
which he was compelled by the continuance of foul weather 
and the violence of recurring storms, his courage was much 
tried, for alarming reports continued to arrive every day 
from Florence and the other revolted cities. Gregory had 
believed that the news of his return would have stirred up 
a strong reaction in his favoiu* ; but the aggravated conduct 
of the cardinal-legates, Avho feared that their power would 
come to an end with the Pontiffs return, had further 
estranged the suffering people of Tuscany, and the signs 
of disloyalty and rebellion were thus increased rather 
than diminished. The astute courtiers who accompanied 
Gregory took advantage of these reports to unsettle the 
mind of the Pontiff ; and but for the extraordinary deter- 
mination and ardour of Catharine, there can be little doubt 
that they would have succeeded in inducing him to turn 
back. They dreaded her influence, and therefore, as soon 


196 Catharine of Siena. 

as possible after landing, they prevailed upon the Pope to 
call a consistory, and in that consistory, Gregory had 
actually confirmed the decision almost unanimously voted 
by the cardinals, to return to Avignon.^ The courtiers, 
believing their triumph secure, began to boast of it openly, 
as of a victory as beautiful as unexpected, when "the 
resolute Mantellata interposed and audaciously confronted 
in her own person alone, this torrent which threatened to 
swallow up the great design for which she had toiled." 
Gregory, surrounded by selfish and adverse counsellors, 
vexed by reports of rebellion, sullenly received by the 
Italian people, and deprived of all reliable human aid, 
again sought to fortify himself by the counsels of Catha- 
rine. Catharine never came into his presence unasked, 
nor did she volunteer advice ; but she knew what had 
passed, and remained in her own chamber, where, as ever, 
praying to her Father in secret, she was again rewarded 
openly by that Father who seeth in secret. Knowing 
the jealousy of her influence felt by the cardinals 
and courtiers, and that a violent opposition would j^ro- 
bably now arise to any proposed conference with her, 
Gregory paid a visit to her house in the night.^ When 
all the city slept, he knocked at her door, and entered, 
unaccompanied, and wrapped in his cloak, to ask of her 
this time not only wise counsels, but power, through 
her prayers, to obey those counsels. The Lady Orietta 
Scott, a faithful friend and disciple of Catharine, was 
present at this interview, as were Father Raymond and 

2 Capecelatro, Storia di S. Catarina da Siena, Lib. v., p. 213. 
Tomniaso Caffarini, Supplemento ad Legend. 

Gregory leaves Genoa for Rome. 197 

others. Catharine was true to her mission. She insisted 
that at all costs, the Papacy must be re-established in Rome, 
and adjured Gregory to believe that the greater the perils and 
difficulties which he might even now have to encounter, the 
more ought he to feel himself called upon to be strong and to 
accept these things from the hand of God, as a discipline in- 
tended to elevate his own soul, and purge away all taint of 
weakness and egotism induced by the long residence amidst 
the luxury of the Western Babylon. When the Pontiff 
took leave of her she remained sleepless, on her knees, 
pleading with Heaven until the morning. 

Undaunted by the angry sea and howling winds, and 
apparently now calmly indifferent to the displeasure and 
murmurings of the courtiers, Gregory embarked at Genoa 
on the 29th of October, and set sail for Rome. 

The poet, Pierre Am6ly, continues : " We set sail again 
on our perilous voyage. After a short pause at Porto- 
Venere, where we had a most miserable dinner, we arrived 
the same evening at Leghorn, where the people received 
us amicably. Here we passed the night. lion of the 
tribe of Judah 1 pearl of pontiffs ! be of good courage, 
and appear before this ferocious and indomitable Tuscan 
people. Show them the power of the keys ! Rebuke 
their audacity, and confound their pride. . . . 

"Behold us at Porto-Pisano on the 6th of November. 
Is there no fear that we may fall victims to these most 
cruel Italians, who breathe only hate and fury ? The 
ambassadors of Pisa and Lucca come down to the shore 
with magnificent presents ; but take care, gentle Pontiff ! 
suffer not thyself to be seduced by their flattering 
words. If they had not abjured their ancient faith. 

198 Catharine of Siena. 

would they not have come to thy aid against the rebellious 
Florentines 1 . . . 

"Now we set sail from Piombino on the 16th of 
November, before the sun has risen. The evening falls 
upon us, calm and fair, as we reach the port of Hercules, 
where, after an excellent dinner, we retire to pleasant 
sleep. . . . But an unfriendly and violent wind blows on 
the morrow. , . . We are driven upon the isle of Elba. 
The prince of pastors seeks some rural oratory in which to 
offer up his prayers to Heaven; and here, behold, we find our- 
selves in a thick forest of olives. The storm prevents us 
fixing our tents. The Archbishop of Narbonne, the chief 
chamberlain of the Pontiff, and the Bishop of Charpentras, 
our great referee in difficulty, are desolated because they can 
find no shelter for the successor of St. Peter. cruel sea, 
thou sparest none ! the holiest and the most powerful thou 
engulfest in the same wave with the most miserable 
Already, before we reached Genoa, hadst thou absorbed our 
most valuable property, and drowned our companion the 
Bishop of Luni ; ^ and now the Cardinal Lagery suffers most 
cruelly through thy furious agitations, and is obliged to be 
carried on shore on the shoulders of a country clown ! Gradu- 
ally the tempest becomes so horrible that several of our 
galleys are capsized, and much of our wealth is engulfed. . . . 
On the 21st of November the Cardinal of Jugie, worn 
out by exposure and sickness, renders his soul to God. 
May the august Trinity reward him with the joys of 
Paradise for the favours he lavished upon his humble 

' ' A cagion del mare grosso, si affbg6, il vescovo di Luni, e si 
ruppero moltilegni." — Mc&atori, Anuali (T Italia, VoL xiL, p. 593. 

The Voyage to Rome. 199 

little servant, the poet Peter Am6ly, whom he admitted 
every day to dine at his table ! 

" At last the weather permits us to start for Porto-Ferraio, 
and we steer our course back to Piombino, where the 
people burst into acclamations of joy on seeing the gentle 
Pontiff safe and sound ; but their congratulations are 
sterile, for they bring us no presents. The next day we 
arrive at Orbitello, where the furious sea pitilessly rends 
the coast. The landing is perilous and difficult. The 
apostolic sub-deacon, who carries the crucifix before the 
pearl of pontiffs, is obliged to swim to shore. And what a 
bleak shore ! There my poor companions, nurtured until 
now in every delicacy, are obliged, alas ! to dine on pork, 
or on fricassee of those obscene frogs which deafen our ears 
with their croaking. We are deprived of wheaten bread, 
of good wine, and of cream ; moreover we are devoured by 
malaria. We are forced to leave our sick at Orbitello, and 
hurry out of this accursed land ; otherwise we should all be 
dead. The Pontiff humbly walks down to his galley, 
leaning on his stick ; for he also suffers. He is preceded 
by torch- bearers, to lighten the darkened atmosphere. We 
toil on through the stormy waves, and at last the high 
towers of the city of Corneto appear in sight. ... Its 
streets are wide and handsome. In spite of its former 
disloyalty, which the jewel of pontiffs freely forgives, its 
inhabitants receive us with extraordinary enthusiasm. . . . 
"On Tuesday, the 13th of January, 1377, we left 
Corneto, after a sojourn of five weeks. In the evening, 
the lily of the Papacy entered his galley, and passed the 
night there, after making tender enquiries concerning the 
health of each one of us. The physicians and astrologers 

200 Catharine of Siena. 

of Avignon, who prophesied a fatal termination to our 
voyage, had apparently misread the constellations ; for we 
sailed all night upon a tranquil sea, by the light of a 
brilliant moon, and wafted by a gentle breeze from the 
north. The morning of the following day we reached the 
mouth of the Tiber, and entered Ostia, a city with splendid 
ramparts, but sad and deserted. In the evening several 
venerable men, deputed by the Romans, arrived to offer 
assurances of their fidelity. The joy of these Envoys, on 
seeing the Pontiff", was such that the words died upon their 
lips. The people of Ostia, lighting torches, danced and 
clapped their hands in the streets, in a frenzy of delight. 
The following Friday the Pontiff" rose in the night to 
celebrate Mass, and after long continuance in prayer, he 
took a few moments of sleep, and then arose and himself 
sounded the trumpet to awake us all. We were then rowed 
up the Tiber by powerful oarsmen. We sang praises to God 
as we went ; but the Pontiff", who had shown signs of failing 
health, was suff"ering great pain during this transit, and 
our hearts were saddened by the sight of his pallid counten- 
ance." The fantastical Provencal poet concludes his account 
with the arrival of the Pope at St. Peter's. The return of 
Gregory to Rome has been described by several of the 
annalists of the Church ; it forms also the subject of a fresco 
in one of the stanze of the Vatican, painted by Vasari, and 
sometimes attributed to Raphael. 

The entrance into Rome was joyful and magnificent. 
According to the custom of the times, some hundreds of 
comedians (istrioni) attired in white, preceded the cortege. 
There were companies of dancers also, who performed 
graceful evolutions and solemn dances, to the sound of 

Gregory's Entrance into Rome. ■ 201 

stately music. The whole population came forth to meet 
the Pontiff ; the senators and councillors of Rome advanc- 
ing at the head of the expectant crowd. The people, 
dressed in holy day attire, as if for a high festival, rent the 
air with cries of "Viva il Pontefice ! Viva Gregorio !" Joy 
and sympathy were written on every face. The excitement 
increased as the procession advanced towards St. Peter's. 
The people knew not how sufficiently to express their glad- 
ness and the glow of their affection towards the Pontiff as 
he passed. They stretched forth their arms towards him ; 
they kneeled and kissed the earth which he had trodden ; 
men and women wept for joy, and little children wept 
also through sympathy, though ignorant of the cause for 
which they wept. The roofs of the houses were covered 
with spectators, and every window was filled with eager 
and joyous faces. The streets were laid with crimson 
carpets and silken stuffs contributed by the richer citizens. 
Winter flowers were profusely scattered on the Pontiff's 
path, and rained down upon him from the windows and 
housetops. The air was filled with the sounds of triumphal 
music, of songs and anthems of praise ; and the ringing 
of the bells from all the churches and campaniles mingled 
with the joyful acclamations of the people. 

But in this triumphal procession into the imperial city 
on this glad day, there was one figure wanting — that of 
her who had inspired the undertaking now consummated. 
Catharine had never failed to be by Gregory's side in times 
of trouble or wavering purpose; but at this moment of 
triumph and congratulation she was absent. Alone, in her 
humble little room at Siena, she was silently gathering 
her forces for the future. She knew that a difficult task 

202 Catharine of Siena. 

awaited Gregory, after the first joyous moments of his 
reception in Rome. Public triumphs are brief ; but evils 
which have struck deep roots in a nation can only be 
eradicated by long and patient effort. 

This outburst of popular rejoicing was the expression of 
a long-cherished hope. The Roman people had suffered 
much during the desertion, for seventy years, of their su- 
preme bishops. They had cherished the memory of their 
past greatness, in the midst of their misfortunes ; and they 
now dreamed of a return to their ancient glory. The popula- 
tion had enormously diminished ; languor and depression 
had entered into all the business and social life of the people. 
There was little nobility of character or example among 
them, and much corruption of morals. Many of the ancient 
monuments were destroyed. The basilicas and churches 
were in ruins, and the services of religion were neglected. 

Petrarch, in one of his letters to the Popes of Avignon, 
thus personifies Rome abandoned by the Pontiffs : " I saw 
waiting at the gate of thy palace, O Pontiff of Avignon, a 
venerable matron whom I seemed to recognize ; and yet I 
did not dare to pronounce her name. Her countenance 
was sorrowful ; her garments were poor and neglected; yet 
there shone in her an ineffable majesty ; most noble were 
her features and bearing, and her speech was that of one 
long accustomed to rule imperially. The greatness of her 
soul beamed through the thick veil of sadness which en- 
veloped her. I asked at last her name, and she murmured 
it forth. It reached me through the void, in the midst of 
sobs ; it was Roma !"i 

^ Petrarch's "Epistles," Ad Bened. PoiUif. 

Catharine urges the Reform of the Church. 203 

Gregory looked upon the desolated city with fear and 
anxiety, for he saw how great were the hopes which had 
been awakened by his return, and how difficult the task 
before him. His was not the spirit to grapple with so 
serious an enterprise ; moreover, the mortal disease which 
caused his death fourteen months later, already had its 
hand upon him ; and physical suffering and languor were 
added to his natural indolence of disposition. Catharine 
now urged him, with all her might, to set about the 
reforms which she saw to be the only salvation for the 
Church. She warned him especially concerning the elec- 
tion of new cardinals and the promotion of ecclesiastics 
of different ranks. " I write to you, father, in the name 
and in the power of Christ crucified. In his name I 
adjure you to see that the ministers you appoint be 
men of virtue and faith ; that they preach repentance in 
that name, and that they be men who have first purified 
themselves." It is thus that she pleaded in her letters to 
Gregory after his return to Rome. "Alas! father," she 
writes, "do you not see that so far from being men of 
virtue, these priests and monks run greedily after all the 
delights of this world ; that they seek riches and place and 
honours, with open and indecent avidity ; that they who 
ought to be wholesome plants planted in the garden of 
the Lord, are but foetid weeds, full of impurity, giving 
forth poisonous odours. Do thou, father, as an instru- 
ment in God's hand, put away all timidity and all spirit 
of negligence, and with solicitude do all that thou canst ; 
thus shalt thou be the true minister of God ; thus slialt 
thou fulfil the will of God, and the desire of his servants 
who are dying for grief in seeing such offences against our 

204 Catharine of Siena. 

Creator, and such trampling under foot of the blood of the 
Son of God. Forgive my presumption, holy father ; my 
sorrow pleads my excuse. Be ready to give thy life for 
Christ crucified. Determine to uproot vice, and to plant 
virtue." In another letter, taking a severer tone, she tells 
the Pontiff that it were better to give up the keys of St. 
Peter than that the Church should be ruled by one who hesi- 
tates to extirpate vice. " God demands that justice shall be 
executed on those who devour and destroy the holy Church. 
Since he hath given you authority over the Church, and 
you have accepted that authority, you are bound to make 
use of your power ; and if you make not use of it, it would 
be better — more for the honour of God and the health of 
your own soul — that you should abdicate the authority 
which you have accepted." 

Political troubles continued, however, to distract the 
mind of Gregory from the moral and spiritual reforms 
to which Catharine ceaselessly urged him, and to which 
he might otherwise have sincerely directed such force as 
he possessed. Rebellious Florence continued to be the 
chief thorn in his side. Raymond's narrative continues : 
" When the Vicar of Christ was, through Catharine's 
influence, re-established at Rome, we all went back to 
Italy. Catharine then sent me to Rome, to lay before 
the holy father several projects for reforming the Church, 
which would have been very useful had they been carried 
out. During my sojourn in Rome, I was commanded 
by my Order to accept the charge of prior of a Roman 
convent ; and thus it became impossible for me to return 
to Siena. Before leaving Tuscany, I had had an interview 
with Nicholas Soderini, (the citizen of Florence, before 

Gregory sends Catliarine again to Florence. 205 

mentioned, who had continued true to Catharine and her 
principles). We had spoken of the affairs of the republic, 
and in particular of the ill-will of the Eight of War, who 
while pretending to desire peace, continually fomented 
rebellion. Soderini said, ' I assure you that the people of 
Florence and all the honest citizens desire peace ; but some 
obstinate spirits that govern us are a hindrance.' I asked 
if there was no remedy to be found for this, and he replied, 
' Yes ; if some respectable citizen, taking deeply to heart 
the cause of God, could come to an understanding with 
some of the leaders of the Guelph party, and obtain the 
deposition from office of one or two of the worst of those 
who at present govern us, I think the public good might be 

" I had been occupied several months in fulfilling my 
charge as prior and in preaching the word of God, when one 
Sunday morning an Envoy of the Pope came to inform me 
that his Holiness desired my presence at dinner. I obeyed, 
and after the repast the holy father said to me : ' I am told 
that if Catharine of Siena were to go to Florence, peace 
would be concluded.' I replied, ' Not only Catharine, but 
we all, holy father, are ready to serve you, and to suffer 
martyrdom if need be.' The holy father then said to me, 'I 
do not desire that you, Eaymond, should go to Florence, 
because they would maltreat you ; but I wish that she should 
go, because she is a woman ; for, because she is a woman, 
and because of the great veneration they have for her 
character, they will take care not to harm her, and will 
listen to her advice. Consider what powers it is suitable 
to grant her, and present them to-morrow morning for 
my signature, that this business be not delayed.' I 

206 Catharine of Siena. 

obeyed, and forwarded the bull of Gregory to Catharine, 
who promptly set out for Florence." 

On this, her third visit to Florence, Catharine was des- 
tined to witness stormy scenes and to suffer much, through 
the difficulty of the attainment of the peace between the 
Florentines and the Church for which she had already so 
long laboured, and through the internal discords of the re- 
public itself, for which she was to some extent unjustly 
held to be accountable. She, immediately on her arrival, 
obtained interviews with some of the leaders of the Guelph 
party, concerning the obstructive temper of the Eight of 
War, who had now become obnoxious to most of the good 
citizens of Florence by their evident ambition to establish 
themselves as permanent rulers of the State, at the expense 
of the true interests of the republic. " They deserved not to 
be called rulers, but destroyers of the commonwealth," says 
Antoninus, the Archbishop of Florence, already quoted, who 
wrote the chronicles of Florence from 1313 to 1459. The 
same chronicler says that Catharine counselled the depriva- 
tion of office of two or three citizens who were the main 
hindrance to the restoration of peace and good order ; that 
the Guelph leaders called upon the Priors of the City (in 
whom was vested the power to elect the Council of War, 
and consequently to depose any member of it), to admonish 
the Eight of War. The admonition, and all arguments in 
favour of peace, were haughtily rejected, and the Priors 
proceeded to depose one of the Eight. They soon after 
proceeded to deprive of office two or three other citizens. 
*' From this a double fire blazed forth ; on the one side 
from the party of those deposed, and on the other from 
the Guelph party, who now, abandoning the principles of 

Political Troiihles in Florence. 207 

strict justice, proceeded to degrade from office certain citi- 
zens against whom they had some private grudge, and to 
take vengeance on the Ghibelline party and the Eight of 
War, who had for so long a time been in the ascendant, and 
had formerly banished many of the Guelphs." It soon be- 
came evident to Catharine that what had been begun with 
an honest purpose, and for the good of the commonwealth, 
was being turned to a base and evil end through the 
jealousies and desire of revenge existing in the rival fac- 
tions in the State. She mourned over this, and denounced 
it openly. "She condemned especially," says Antoninus, 
" the hunting out of office and banishing of so many and 
such useful persons, and she protested against the wicked- 
ness of turning a judicial action, undertaken in order to 
obtain peace, into an intestine war to gratify their private 
hatred." She warned the Florentine leaders that if they 
continued to seek their own private interests thus, in place 
of the good of the commonwealth, and in doing so to com- 
mit such crimes as they now hesitated not to commit, " a 
time of such woe for Florence would shortly arrive as 
neither they nor their ancestors had ever yet experienced." 
Machiavelli records the history of that prolonged and fierce 
revolution in Florence, which caused Catharine's words to 
be remembered as prophetic. 

The conflict between the Guelphs and Ghibellines be- 
came more fierce and more complicated every day. But 
in the midst of it the peace with the Church was finally 
concluded, and the ban removed from the city and its 
commerce. Of this I shall speak presently. The Guelph 
party was represented by the powerful families of the 
Albizzi and the Strozzi ; that of the Ghibellines by the 

208 Cathanne of Siena. 

Eight of War, the families of the Ricci and the Alberti, and 
by Salvestro dei Medici, the ancestor of the great Lorenzo 
dei Medici and of Pope Leo X. Salvestro was a man of 
very low origin, who had, by his skill in commerce, attained 
to great wealth and enormous credit. He was now elected 
gonfalonier of the city, and for a time guided his party 
successfully in its opposition to the Guelphs. The number 
and character of the citizens deprived of office and exiled, 
at the instigation of the Guelph nobles, were such as to 
excite displeasure even among the most moderate citizens, 
who refrained from taking part with either faction. The 
Ghibellines demanded the re-election and return of these 
deposed citizens. The demand was at first partially and 
hesitatingly granted. This was not enough to satisfy 
the long-cherished animosity of the Ghibellines, and the 
Guelphs felt instinctively that further and larger demands 
would follow, the denial of which would be the signal for 
civil war. 

Everyone knew that the feud was not at an end ; 
that the vanquished Guelphs would not submit to their 
defeat, nor the vanquishers be satisfied with their victory. 
The more cautious of the citizens made preparations for 
a revolution w^hich they believed to be inevitable ; they 
fortified their houses, and transported the more valuable 
of their effects into the churches and monasteries ; the 
workshops remained closed, and the whole aspect of 
the city was one of mutual distrust and defiance. The 
people of Florence, like those of Siena, were divided into 
political corporations according to their arts or trades ; 
the two great divisions being those of the Great Arts and 
the Inferior Arts. On this occasion the division of the 

Revolt of the Wool-carders. 209 

Great Arts favoured the Guelphs, and that of the Inferior 
Arts the Ghibellines, thus causing a most complete and seri- 
ous antagonism of the elements of industrial and civil life, 
in preparation for the approaching revolutionary encounter. 
But, besides this antagonism there existed another, namely, 
between the lowest class of the citizens, who had no political 
existence, and the class to which they sold their services 
as labourers — the higher artisans and merchants belonging 
to the divisions of the Great and Inferior Arts. This 
lowest class of workpeople was very numerous, and had 
greatly increased during the last ten years. They worked 
for all the trades and arts, but had no voice in the State. 
The art or manufacture of wool, which had attained to the 
first importance in Florence, had in its service the greatest 
number of these workmen, i.e., the wool-carders and weavers, 
who came to be distinguished as the fiercest and most dis- 
contented spirits of the time. These wool-carders and 
weavers had some just ground of complaint. Not only 
had they no political existence, but they seldom were able 
to obtain justice from the legal tribunal of the woollen 
manufacturers, when any complaint was brought to that 
tribunal either by employers or employed. Most naturally 
was this the case, for the members of that tribunal were 
drawn solely from the class of the employers, and those 
who had a representation in the State. " There were at 
Florence," says Sismondi, " men whom unceasing me- 
chanical labour, extreme poverty, and entire dependence 
had deprived of the capacity for harbouring liberal senti- 
ments ; who were unable to deliberate except with a kind 
of intoxication of mind, nor to act except with a rude fury. 
These men received the name of the Ciompi, a corruption of 


210 Catharine of Siena. 

a name which had descended from the times of the tyranni- 
cal Duke of Athens," The Giompi were chiefly recruited 
from among the poor wool-carders. These men had been 
watching their opportunity to seize upon those civil rights 
which had not yet been granted to their pacific demand. 
They were uneducated, and, for the most part, ignoble and 
wretched. Led on by a wool-carder called lionco, they 
began deliberately to prepare for the work of pillage and 
robbery. Salvestro dei Medici had the boldness to invite 
these sans-culottes to his aid, believing them to be an 
element which Avould serve the purposes of his party. He 
afterwards experienced the truth of Machiavelli's words : 
" There is no man bold enough to stir up a revolutionary 
movement in a city who can, at his will, either curb the 
movement at the point at which he desires to arrest it, or 
guide it towards the object at Avhich he aims."i 

In a short time the whole city was under arms. The 
Eight of War had an advantage in having the control of 
the weapons at the service of the State. The mob armed 
itself with every kind of rude implement which could be 
used for the destruction of life or property. Arrests on 
each side took place daily. Many attempts were made 
by the Guelphs to admit through the city gates numbers 
of armed peasants who waited outside and in the country 
round, and who would have ranged themselves under the 
leaders of that party. Quiet was partially restored for a 
few days by the firm attitude of Louis Guicciardini, who 
noAV held the oflBce of Gonfalonier of Justice. He assem- 
bled the leaders of the Ciompi, with the Signory and the 

^ Machiavelli, Stcnia Fior. 

speech of Louis Guicciardini. 211 

Syndics of the Ai-ts, in the Grand Piazza, and thus 
addressed them : " The more we grant you, the more do 
you increase your demands. You asked us to deprive the 
captains of parties of their authority ; we did so. You 
wished that we should burn their counting-houses and 
offices ; we consented. You demanded that the exiles and 
those deprived of office should be recalled and reinstated ; 
we permitted it. At your entreaty we have pardoned 
those who have pillaged houses and robbed the churches ; 
to satisfy you we have sent several citizens into exile 
who were obnoxious to you ; to favour your party we 
have restrained by ordinance the powers of the nobles. 
Will your demands have no limit 'i You must see that we 
bear much better our defeat than you your victory. Will 
you, by your discords, bring this city, during peace, into 
a slavery to which no external power, during war, has ever 
been able to reduce her 1 For, know, that your victories 
over your fellow-citizens will never produce anything 
but slavery, and that the property of which you have 
robbed us, and will rob us, will never yield anything 
except poverty. Wherefore we command you, and, (if 
the honour of this republic obliges us to use the word), 
we implore you, to calm your spirits and to be content 
with what we have done ; or if it be needful that we grant 
you yet something more, demand it in a manner becoming 
to good citizens, and not by tumult and the show of armed 
force." The syndics were much moved by this frank 
address, and thanked the gonfalonier, promising him to 
labour for the re-establishment of peace in the city. The 
signory also at once prepared to make reforms and restore 
order. But the wild spirits called up from the depths of 


212 Catharine of Siena. 

society by Salvestro dei Medici and other demagogues were 
not to be so easily conjured into peace. 

The Ciompi foresaw, or imagined, punishments being 
prepared for them in particular, on account of all the 
crimes of which they had been guilty during the tumult, 
and exhorted each other to save their own lives by yet 
more audacious acts ; " a great peril can only be escaped 
by a perilous path," they said. The insurgents conse- 
quently assembled the same evening in great numbers 
before the prison of San Piero Maggiore and demanded 
the release of the prisoners — their friends and fellow- 
workmen. They burnt to the ground the house of Guic- 
ciardini, the Glonfalonier of Justice, and seized the gon- 
falon, or standard of justice, which had been suspended 
from his windows. This revered standard, regarded by 
the Florentines with almost religious awe, was now 
carried by the mob to every place where they vented 
their fury. They marched from house to house, pillaging 
and burning, and often dedicating to ruin whole fami- 
lies on a word of accusation pronounced by a single 

Catharine had had a house assigned to her when 
she came to Florence; it was near to San Giorgio, 
and belonged to the family of Canigiani, who were her 
friends and allies. Barduccio, who became one of her 
secretaries, was a member of this family; and it was 
during this visit to Florence that she first made his 
acquaintance. Here she remained, steadfast to her pur- 
pose, and endeavouring daily, and not without result, to 
influence the more sober of the citizens to act in such a 
way as to secure some good results when the present 

Catharine pursued by the Revolutionaries. 213 

tribulations should have passed over. Stephen Maconi had 
preceded her to Florence, and had put in practice his native 
talent for oratory. " His facile and eloquent speeches had 
persuaded many citizens to remain in quietness " and wait 
their opportunity to avail themselves of a better spirit 
among the people.^ But the torrent of revengeful feeling 
and popular disaffection was not yet to be driven back. 
News was brought to Catharine that the house of her 
friend Nicholas Soderini had been burnt to the ground 
and his family driven outside the gates. Not an hour had 
elapsed before the mob gathered round the house of the 
Canigiani. The account of what followed is given alike 
by Eaymond, the Bollandists, Archbishop Antoninus, and 
Ammirato. The Eight of "War had not forgotten how 
Catharine, by her conduct in the embassy to Avignon, and 
by her letters, had exposed the insincerity of their pro- 
fessions. They knew her to be the friend of Soderini, 
and that she had approved the deposition from office of 
one of their number. It was enough for them to give the 
slightest hint on these matters to the ruthless bands of 
insurgents ; the cry was quickl}' echoed that Catharine 
was an enemy to the public good and to the democratic 
party. The mob ran to the house of the Canigiani, and set 
fire to it. Catharine and her friends escaped, and accepted 
the oifered hospitality of one kindly disposed citizen after 
another. But one house after another of those with whom 
she took refuge was attacked and pillaged and then set 
on fire, so that finally no one dared to receive her and 
her followers. The leaders of the insurgents pointed her 

1 Frigerio, Vita di S. Catariiia. 

214 Catharine of Siena. 

out to the mob wherever she went, and she could not safely 
be seen in the streets. Cries were heard of "Where is 
that accursed woman 1 Bring her out and burn her alive ! 
Cut her in pieces !" The citizens, who no longer dared 
to shelter her, begged her to depart from the city. 
"Catharine lost nothing of her ordinary tranquillity," says 
Raymond. " Confident of her own innocence, she rejoiced 
to suffer for the sake of the cause she had at heart." She 
encouraged her companions with more than her usual sweet- 
ness and cheerfulness of manner. Chased from every re- 
treat, she retired into a deserted garden which she found, 
and there kneeling down, she poured out her soul in 
prayer before God. While she was thus engaged, there 
approached a band of the wool-carders of the quarter of 
San Giovanni. They were armed with halberds, swords, 
and clubs, and were crying out, "Where is the wicked 
woman 1 Where is Catharine?" Catharine heard, and 
joyfully came forward, ready for martyrdom. She went up 
to the leader of the furies, who was in advance of the rest, 
and was shouting the loudest, " Where is Catharine 1" He 
was bi'andishing a sword in his naked arms. She kneeled 
down before him and said, quietly and fearlessly, "I am 
Catharine. Do whatever God permits you to do to me ; 
but in his name I forbid you to come near or to touch 
any one of these who are with me." At these words, the 
man who had threatened her seemed to lose his strength 
and dropped the point of his sword to the ground. " He 
seemed unable to bear her gaze. He ordered her to 
go away, to leave his presence."^ But she, full of confi- 

^ "Expellebat earn a se, diceus, recede a me." — Bollakdus, 
Acta Sanct. 

Escape from Political Martyrdom. 215 

dence, replied, " I am very well here. Where would you 
have me to go 1 I am ready to die for Jesus Christ and 
for his people ; that, indeed, is the end of all my desires. 
If you are charged to kill me, act fearlessly ; here I am in 
your hands ; and be assured that no harm will come to you 
from any of my friends." The man turned his face aside, 
that he might no longer meet her looks, and eventually 
slunk away, taking his followers with him. Catharine's 
disciples and friends gathered round her to congratulate 
her on her escape from so great a peril ; but she, remaining 
on her knees, wept. Many feelings combined to wring from 
her those tears. She had not been accounted worthy, she 
thought, to suffer death for Christ's sake ; she was filled 
also with pity for the poor creatures who had just departed, 
so possessed with the spirit of discord and hate. She re- 
garded them as victims of an evil power, and remembered 
that by ignorance and suffering and the absence of all 
spiritual light they had been drawn into committing such 
acts of violence and revengefulness ; and she prayed, 
*' Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." 
Her friends now seriously advised her to return to Siena ; 
but she steadfastly refused to do so, saying, " God has com- 
manded me not to quit the territory of the republic of 
Florence until the peace with the Church is concluded." 
They dared not longer oppose her ; and two brave citizens, 
a tailor and his wife, concealed her for several days in their 
house. Some time after, however, Catharine consented to 
retire with her disciples to the monastery of Vallombrosa, 
near Florence. They went there on foot, and arrived in the 
evening at this cool and shadowy retreat among the hills, 
whence they returned a few weeks later to Florence. 

216 Catharine of Siena. 

It will now be necessary to go back to the month of 
March of that year, in order to trace the events connected 
with the Papacy. The efforts of Catharine to obtain the 
long-desired peace between Florence and the Church had 
begun to bear fruit in the midst of the internal troubles of 
the republic. She prevailed upon Gregory to moderate his 
demands, and gradually influenced a few of the leading 
citizens of Florence in favour of holding a congress to 
agree upon the conditions of peace. The King of France 
also wrote to Gregory, advising a meeting for arbitration. 
Bernabos Visconti, to the surprise of all, now also declared 
himself in favour of such a settlement. The reason for 
this became afterwards apparent. Bernabos had prevailed 
upon Gregory to agree that, in return for his mediation, 
he should receive a large portion of the eight hundred 
thousand florins which Gregory hoped to receive from 
the League of revolted cities, as restitution for the wrong 
done by them to the Church. It appears from the cor- 
respondence of Catharine that Bernabos had, on one 
occasion during her public career, deemed it worth his 
while to send ambassadors to treat with her. When, and 
for what purpose, this deputation was sent to Catharine 
it is not easy to ascertain ; but it appears probable that 
it occurred at the time when the arbitration was pro- 
posed, and when the Duke of Milan appeared before the 
surprised world in his new character of a promoter of 
peace. His real motive, as we have seen, was avarice. 
He may very probably, however, have desired to estab- 
lish relations with Catharine in order to be able the better 
to act for a time this part before the world. Her letters 
do not throw any light on his intentions. She merely 

A Peace Congress. 217 

replied with searching appeals to his conscience, and warn- 
ings to him to repent and live as a Christian. This was 
not at all what Bernabos asked or wanted of her, and the 
correspondence ceased. 

The presence of the Pope in Italy tended greatly to facili- 
tate the peace. He had already withdrawn many of the 
legates from the positions they had held as agents in 
governing ; he had remitted the taxes imposed by them ; 
his return to Italy was itself a guarantee of his desire for 
a good understanding with the republics ; and he had already 
begun to win back in some degree the estranged affections 
of his subjects. Sarzana, in Liguria, was the place chosen 
for the meeting of the congress. The Pope sent there his 
plenipotentiary, the Cardinal de la Grange, Bishop of 
Amiens. Four ambassadors were sent from Florence and 
two from Naples, from the court of Queen Joanna. The 
Venetians and Genoese were also represented by chosen 
ambassadors, while the Duke of Milan was supposed to 
represent the interests of Lombardy. Difficulties arose 
concerning the enormous tribute demanded by the ambassa- 
dors of the Church. The arbitrators had almost reached a 
settlement of the question by arranging a partition of the 
burden among the various revolted cities, which would, 
it was hoped, be accepted by all, when the news reached 
the assembled congress of the death of Gregory. This 
event deferred the ratification of the peace for foiu" 
months, during which period occurred the events of the 
Florentine revolution already described. In the course 
of the same period the great schism took place which 
divided Chnstendom, and which stands on the page 
of history as a scandal presented before the whole world 

218 Cailmrine of Siena. 

by the Church which professed itself one and indivisible, 
governed by an infallible chief. 

Raynaldns, in his " Ecclesiastical Annals," gives the 
character of Gregory XL : " He was of an affectionate 
and domestic nature ; he loved his own people and 
family ; he yielded, indeed, too much to their wishes, 
especially in the matter of promotions. He was blame- 
less in his private life, and pitiful and generous to the 
poor. Immediately on his return to Italy he remitted 
all the duties and taxes upon the carriage of corn, hay, 
wine, &c., which the legates had imposed on the people of 
Italy ; and by a solemn decree he forbade the imposition 
in future of any such taxes on his subjects. He possessed 
a cultivated mind, and was a lover of learning and learned 
men. The anxieties and cares which he encountered on 
his return to Rome contributed, with the progress of an 
internal disease from which he had long suffered, to bring 
about his death at the age of sixty- seven."^ He died at 
midnight on the 27th of March, 1378. 

The death of Gregory, and the Schism which succeeded, 
sounded a truce for a season to all civil wars in Italy, 
and etfected a great change in the public feeling through- 
out the nation towards the Church. The hatred which 
the Italians had felt towards the French who had seized 
on all the dignities and powers of the Church, had led 
them on to fight against the Church itself. After the 
death of Gregory, the same hatred urged the Italians to 
rally round his successor, an Italian. The pontiffs and 
prelates of Avignon had conspired against the liberties 

' Ruynaldus, Auiiales Ecclts., V. xvi. , p. 555. 

Eleciion of Urban VI. 219 

of Italy ; their policy had been grasping and perfidious. 
They had filled the peninsula with their fierce mercenary 
bands of Bretons ; they had bribed to submission the Queen 
of Naples and had secured the protection of the King of 
France. All this power was destroyed by the great Schism 
of the West. The Court of Rome was deprived hence- 
forward of the support of the Ultramontanes. Its wealth, 
already dissipated in civil war, and now divided between 
two rival pontiffs, was no longer sufficient for the sub- 
sidizing of troops, nor for the keeping up of any luxurious 
state. The Italian Pontiff was at the mercy of the republics 
which his predecessors had endeavoured to crush. Happily 
for him, the animosity of these republics had vanished, 
together with the danger which they had incurred from the 
power and avarice of the Ultramontanes.^ 

On the 7th of April, the cardinals entered into conclave 
for the election of the new Pope. Eleven of the cardinals 
were French, one Spanish, and four Italian. A short resi- 
dence in Italy had deepened the aversion of the French 
cardinals towards that country, and they only awaited the 
election of a new Pope in order, as they hoped, to re- 
conduct the Pontifical Court to Avignon. This was well 
known in Rome, and now produced great excitement. The 
people flocked round the Vatican on the day on which the 
doors were to be locked upon the cardinals in conclave. 
They essayed by clamour to obtain some influence over 
the deliberations. "We want a Roman," they cried, "a 
Roman, or at least an Italian." A great part of the crowd 
even rushed into the Vatican and clamoured at the doors 

* Slsmondi, "History of the Italian Republics," Vol. vii., Chap. L 

220 Catharine of Siena. 

of the chamber where the cardinals were assembled. "These 
accursed Komans," says the French biographer of Gregory, 
"were armed, and refused to go out." After some hours 
of uproar, the Bishop of Marseilles prevailed upon the 
greater number of them to retire ; forty or fifty, however, 
refused to do so, and continued to run about in all the 
corners of the building, under the pretence of seeing 
whether there were any armed men concealed, any points 
of egress, or means of communication with the outer 
world. This pretended search lasted an enormous time, 
while the multitudes outside continued to shout, "A 
Eoman ! — we must have a Roman!" The uneasiness of 
the cardinals increased the more on seeing the approach 
of a deputation from the Gonfaloniers and Municipal 
Council of Rome. They received the deputation in the 
little chapel of the Vatican, The chief Gonfalonier repre- 
sented to the Sacred College how grievously the whole of 
Christendom had suffered by the absence of the Popes 
from Italy. The churches and buildings at Rome had 
fallen into ruin ; there were several cardinals who had 
never in the whole course of their lives visited the 
churches whos3 titles they bore, and who had allowed 
them to be deserted, although they continued to be to them- 
selves a source of income. The ecclesiastical States had 
been left a prey to venal, insolent, and arbitrary vicarious 
rulers ; a universal revolt had been the consequence of 
this mode of government, so different from the just and 
careful administration of the early Church. It was by a 
most happy providence, they added, that the good Pope 
Gregory had come back to die in Rome, so that the 
Sacred College was forced to assemble in the ecclesiastical 

Election of Urban FL 221 

capital for the election of his successor. Hence it was 
most desirable that the wishes of the Romans, and of the 
Italians in general, should be considered on the momentous 
choice about to be made. The deputation retired to allow 
the cardinals to deliberate. They were presently again 
introduced, and Cardinal Corsini, Bishop of Florence, 
whose heart was nevertheless wholly with the Italians, 
replied in the name of the Sacred College, that he was 
astonished at the attempt made to influence a decision 
concerning which neither fear nor favour, nor the clamours 
of the people ought to have anything to do; and that 
the Holy Spirit alone by his inspiration would determine 
the choice. The deputation retired very ill-satisfied, and 
the people renewed their noise, and the cry, "Give us a 
Roman ! " Despite of the firmness shown by the Bishop 
of Florence the popular clamour did influence the Sacred 
College. The people remembered that for three centuries 
the right of electing the Pope had belonged to them, and 
the cardinals very well knew that it would be a risk to 
ignore the past and to set aside entirely the wishes of the 
Romans. The French cardinals were divided into two 
parties concerning the election. Both parties desired a 
French Pope, but personal rivalries prevented them from 
agreeing as to whom they would elect. Seeing that they 
ran a risk, by their division, of giving a dangerous advantage 
to the Italians, the French cardinals at last agreed upon the 
Cardinal Archbishop of Bari. This cardinal was a Nea- 
politan by birth, and a subject of Queen Joanna, who had 
always favoured the French supremacy in Italy and the 
residence of the papacy at Avignon. He had also lived for 
several years at Avignon, whence it was hoped that his 

222 Catharine of Siena. 

sympathies might have become already more enlisted on 
their side than on that of the Italians ; as an Italian, he 
would satisfy the Italians ; moreover, he had the reputation 
of being a sternly religious as well as a learned man. The 
hour came for collecting the suffrages. The cardinals being 
all seated, the Bishop of Florence, who was the senior 
cardinal, pronounced with a loud voice the name of the 
Cardinal of St. Peter's as the future Pope. The Cardinal 
of Limoges, the next in order, then arose and said : " The 
Cardinal of St. Peter's is unsuitable, because, being a Roman, 
it will appear as though the Sacred College had yielded to 
the clamours of the Romans ; besides which, he is old and 
infirm. The Bishop of Florence is not eligible, because 
he comes from a city in revolt against the Church ; Car- 
dinal Orsini is a Roman, and is, besides, much too young. 
Thus the three Italians who might be considered eligible 
are rejected ; and, therefore, I propose the Cardinal Arch- 
bishop of Bari." All, with the exception of the Cardinal 
of Florence and the young Cardinal Orsini, who himself 
hoped to have been elected, voted for the Cardinal of 
Bari ; and he was canonically elected. The College, 
however, feared to announce to the people the fact that 
they had not elected a Roman ; all the more, because 
as a curious ancient custom allowed, the people claimed 
the right of pillaging the palace of the newly-elected 
Pope and carrying away his goods. The tumult of the 
impatient people continued to increase in and around 
the Vatican, while the Cardinals sat nervously on their 
chairs, each one afraid to propose the proclamation of 
the result of the election. Cardinal Orsini at last ran to 
a window, and beckoning to the people to be silent, he 

The Vatican Invaded by the Populace. 223 

declared to them that the new Pope was elected. They 
clamorously demanded the name, and Orsini, in the midst 
of confusion replied, '* Go to St. Peter's, and you will learn." 
The words St. Peter's, repeated by the crowd, gave rise 
to the belief that the Cardinal of St. Peter's was elected. 
The people were mad with joy, and the house of the old 
cardinal was stripped from top to bottom. Meanwhile the 
cardinals remained in the Vatican. The people returning 
from the sack of the house of the Cardinal of St. Peter's 
and finding the doors of the Vatican still closed, forced 
them and rushed in to do homage, they said, to the new 
Pope. The fear of the cardinals increased on seeing that 
the people were still in error as to who was the new Pope, 
and they dreaded to enlighten them. They were seized, 
in fact, with a panic, and endeavoured to escape, some by 
the great doors which the people had forced, and others 
through the chaplain's private rooms. The populace forced 
an entrance into the small chapel where the venerable and 
unambitious Tebaldeschi, Cardinal of St. Peter's, was 
sitting, quietly meditating on the passing events. They 
prostrated themselves before him as Pope, and asked his 
benediction. It was in vain that the aged cardinal 
replied, " I have not been elected ; I am not, and I do 
not wish to be Pope." His feeble voice was lost amidst 
the surrounding tumult, and those who heard the last 
words thought he was only modestly declaring that he 
had not desired election. The more the mistake gained 
ground, the more troubled and anxious became the car- 
dinals. The greater part of them left the city that even- 
ing, and sought refuge in their country-houses, taking 
care only to spread the news as they quitted the gates 

224 Catharine of Siena. 

that Cardinal Bari was the elected Pope. Bari, not less 
troubled than the rest, had concealed himself in a secret 
room in the Vatican, while the mob feasted upon the 
remains of the provisions which had been provided for the 
Conclave. The agitation calmed down a little; and the next 
morning the Bishop of Florence announced the facts concern- 
ing the election to the Gonfaloniers of the city assembled at 
the Capitol, and besought the Roman people to accept the 
new Pope. The people were not slow in reconciling them- 
selves to the decision, and Cardinal Bari was publicly elected 
Pope, under the title of Urban VI. Urban pronounced his 
initiatory oration ; the bells rang, and Te Deums were sung. 
Urban was thus, manifestly, duly and legitimately 
elected ; and although clamour had accompanied the 
process of election, yet the result was afterwards con- 
firmed by all the cardinals, deliberately, and in the midst 
of calm and of popular contentment. But the character 
of Urban was, unfortunately, in some respects, ill suited 
for the emergencies of the times in which he was ele- 
vated to the papacy. He was altogether unlike his pre- 
decessor, Gregory XI. He was firm, stern, and uncom- 
promising, indifferent to the luxuries, refinements, and 
even comforts of this life. He was determined to reform 
the Church ; but his manner of advising and promoting 
reforms was rude and repelling, and sometimes unjust. 
His temper was his bane. He was proud, insolent, 
overbearing, and passionate. His manner continually 
offended and estranged those around him, even when his 
actions were praiseworthy and his intentions good. His 
dark olive complexion, quick glancing black eyes, and 
lean, nervous hands indicated the bilious and restless 

Character- of Urban VI . 225 

temperament referred to by papal biographers. " He was 
a man of great probity and virtue," says Muratori, " but 
wanting in humility. Instead of winning the affection of 
the cardinals and prelates, and thus labouring for the 
reform of the Church, he showed openly his detestation of 
their dissolute lives, their cupidity and luxury and simony. 
He besieged the palaces of some of them, and rudely intro- 
duced many novelties and reforms, very necessary in them- 
selves, but so imposed as to show a contempt for the 
liberty of the persons on whom he imposed them." He 
quickly excited against himself, as well as against his re- 
forms, the anger of the French cardinals, who " saw not only 
their libertinism but their liberty threatened." i Doubtless 
his proud and haughty manner was a hindrance to the 
success of his proposed reforms ; yet it cannot be believed 
that the utmost of courtesy and gentleness would have 
availed to reconcile the French cardinals to a moral and 
self-denying life, or to avert the revolt which Catharine 
had long before foretold, when she said to Raymond, " A.9 
soon as the Pope shall attempt to reform the morals of the 
Church, you will see that the conduct of the clergy will be 
worse than that of the laity ; they will rebel against the 
Holy See," &c. The gluttony of the high ecclesiastics had 
often been the object of the satirical attacks of Petrarch, 
and the cardinals could merrily quote at their feasts the 
classic denunciations of the poet; but Urban excited 
something more than mirth and laughter when he ordered 
that no more than a single dish was ever to be seen upon 
the table of any prelate of whatever rank, and when he 

^ Muratori, Vol. xii., p. 606. 

226 Catharine of Siena. 

himself set the example, holding to his own rule, even on 
occasions of the greatest hospitality. He endeavoured, in 
the same abrupt manner, to put a stop to simony ; and he 
threatened with excommunication all prelates who should 
accept of any presents. He announced his intention never 
to leave Rome, and commanded the cardinals to make 
preparations for spending both their summers and winters 
there. The Gonfaloniers of Rome having formally peti- 
tioned him, on his election, according to custom, to create 
some new cardinals, he replied, in the presence of the 
Ultramontane cardinals : "I will not only make a. few pro- 
motions, but I will make so many that henceforward the 
Italian cardinals shall always outnumber the foreigners in 
the Sacred College." Cardinal Robert of Geneva (the pro- 
moter of the massacre of Cesena) turned pale with anger 
and left the hall.^ In the consistories Urban was far from 
being conciliatory. He interrupted the cardinals when 
they were speaking. " You have said enough," he would 
say to one. " Hold your tongue ; you do not know what 
you are talking about," to another. He so far forgot him- 
self as to call the high-spirited young Cardinal Orsini a 
fool ; 2 and he accused the Cardinal de St. Marcel, in full 
consistory, of embezzling the money of the Church. " You 
lie like a true Calabrese," replied that fiery Frenchman, 
<vho resented the insult to himself as a gentleman and a 
prelate. Such amenities failed to promote harmony in the 
carrying out of the reforms. 

1 Tommaso di Acerno, " De Creatione Urbani VI." 
^ " Item cardinal! de Ursinis dixit quod erat unus sotus.'' — 
Tommaso di Acerno. 

Revolt of the French Cardinals. 227 

The French cardinals, alarmed at the threatened reforms, 
and disgusted with Urban, retired to the pleasant shades 
of Anagni, where they had made great preparations for 
spending the summer. It was the end of June, and the 
great heat had already begun to shake the nerves and 
aggravate the irritable tempers of many of the prelates. 
Urban quickly sent to recall some of the cardinals, who 
ought, he averred, to be by his side, to conduct the business 
of the Church. They declined to come. The bitterness on 
each side was increased by the refusal of Urban to pay 
back to Gaetano, Count of Fondi, a debt of 20,000 florins 
which he had lent to Gregory XL, and which Urban pro- 
tested had been borrowed by Gregory for his private ex- 
penses, and not for the Church. Gaetano repaired to Anagni, 
to nurse his wrath by conferring with the cardinals, whom 
he further stirred up against Urban. The governor of the 
Castle of St. Angelo, in Rome, now refused any longer to 
obey the orders of Urban. It was evident that a revolt 
was imminent. Cardinal Robert of Geneva, who continued 
to retain some fierce Breton troops in his pay, marched 
them to Anagni, to be at the service of the cardinals. The 
Romans essayed to stop their crossing of the bridge of 
Salario, and were defeated by them with the loss of five 
hundred men. The cardinals, inflated by this triumph, 
hilariously informed Urban that they would never return 
to him, either in Rome or anywhere else, and patroniz- 
ingly advised him to take to himself a coadjutor in the 
government who might instruct him in better modes of 
carrying out impossible reforms. When Urban angrily 
reproached them with their profligacy and with the misery 
they caused to the poor, (for he appears to have had a real 


228 Catharine of Siena. 

sympathy with the humbler classes of the people), they re- 
plied, with the usual hypocritical cant, that " vices of the 
kind alluded to with such painful and unseemly plainness 
of speech by the Pontiff, had existed from the beginning of 
the world, and must always exist ;" that Moses, the great 
lawgiver, had wisely provided for and legislated for these 
evils, thus recognizing them as a perpetual necessity of 
human society ; that all men, and still more all women, 
were frail ; that it was Utopian to pretend that immorality 
could be rooted out; that Christianity itself had never done 
anything towards purifying society of the evil indicated by 
the Pontiff; and that "those men and women who were 
generally considered to be saints would be seen to be, in 
fact, no better than others, could the secrets of their lives be 

Catharine had made the acquaintance of Urban at Avig- 
non, and had had several conversations with him during the 
journey to Marseilles. She understood already sufficiently 
the character of the man, and that his domineering will and 
the harshness of his manner might prove injurious to his in- 
fluence, while his honesty, uprightness, and zeal would be 
powerful agencies in the carrying out of the reforms of 
the Church. Her letters to him, consequently, abound in 
gentle warnings, and earnest advice to "temper zeal with 
charity," to accept all contradiction and opposition with 
" tranquillity of heart," and to gather around him, above all, 
wise and Christian counsellors to aid him in his great work. 
At the same time she continued to denounce incessantly 
and with ever-increasing indignation the horrible im- 
morality existing among the clergy, and to point out, as 
the only hope for humanity, a searching and a " scorch- 

She Urges the Eefm-mation of the Church. 229 

ing" repentance, a thorough reformation, and a return to 
the pure and simple preaching of Christ cnicified, and to 
primitive simpUcity of life and manners. Her letters, indeed, 
voluminous and lengthy as they are, presented to us in their 
collected form, give the impression not unfrequently of 
wearisome repetition, so constantly are the same thoughts 
and counsels reiterated, so consistently does the writer 
" know nothing among her fellow-men save Jesus Christ 
and him crucified," and so great is her fidelity and fearless 
persistency in reproving the wickedness of her times. In 
one of her letters she describes with a touch of scornful 
irony the appearance, in those days, of the " ministers of 
Christ," or those who ought to have been so. They pre- 
sented the appearance of gay knights, with their plumed 
bonnets, their military boots and spurs, their jewelled 
swords, their silken sashes embroidered with gold, and 
their carefully curled hair, looking like worldly " gallants " 
rather than pastors of Christ's poor and forsaken flock. 
She declares that the knowledge of their impurities causes 
her soul to faint within her, and she longs for Christ to 
appear again and drive out with his inexorable scourge the 
profaners of his sanctuary. 

Precisely at this time there lived in far-off England 
a stern monk who, in order to rebuke the luxury of 
the clergy in his own land, had adopted a life of extreme 
poverty, and who, lean and fasting, and dressed in a 
coarse garment, was going barefooted on his missions, 
preaching repentance, and carrying terror to the con- 
sciences of wicked professors and false teachers. He laid 
the wooden cross he carried over the backs of the vicious 
priests, fulminating terrible curses upon their cupidity, 

230 Catharine of Siena. 

impurity, and pride, and beating them till they cried out 
for mercy. This monk was John WyclifFe, Catharine's 
contemporary. In their opposition to practical ungodliness, 
the spirit of the fiery reformer animated both. 

The French cardinals, during their residence at Anagni, 
laboured to detach the four Italian cardinals from their alle- 
giance to Urban. They entirely failed with Tebaldeschi, 
the old cardinal of St. Peter's ; but with the three others 
they so far succeeded as to obtain from them a declaration 
of neutrality. Tebaldeschi, alone remaining in Rome with 
Urban, died in the first week of August, declaring with his 
last breath that Urban had been duly elected. Urban was 
thus deprived of his last support in the Sacred College, 
The French cardinals, assured of the alliance of the King of 
France and the Queen of Naples, proclaimed unanimously, 
on the 9th of August, 1378, that the Holy See was vacant. 
They declared that Urban had been illegally elected under 
the intimidation of a mutinous populace, and they pro- 
nounced his election null. When this intelligence reached 
Urban, he at once elected twenty-nine new cardinals. 
The Frenchmen, hearing this, in the bitterness of their 
wrath and jealousy, called a consistory at Fondi, re- 
tired in conclave, and proceeded to the election of a 
new Pope. Their choice fell on Robert of Geneva, the 
instigator of the massacre of Cesena, whom they elevated 
to the papal throne on the 20th of September, with the 
title of Clement VII. Two days previously, i.e., on the 
18th of September, Catharine addressed a long letter to 
Urban, in which she urged him to accept with humility 
" all fatigues, calumnies, contempt, injuries, insults, in- 
justices, and the loss of temporal good, and to seek 

Lelter to Urban. 231 

the honour of God alone in the salvation of souls." Thus 
alone, and by the practice of Christ's precepts, she tells 
him, can the victory be gained by the true over the false 
leaders of the Church. " You know, father, that without 
enormous suffering and labour it will be impossible to attain 
to that for which we long, the reform of the Church by 
good, honest, and holy men. In bearing magnanimously 
the blows which will be brought to bear on you by those 
who wield the sword of schism, you will receive light, the 
light of truth ; and the truth will save us, in the midst of 
the clouds and darkness of falsehood and schism. my 
father ! gird upon you the armour of God. Take the sword 
of truth ; now is the time to draw it from its sheath, and 
to use it first against yourself, in banishing evil from your 
own soul, and then against the ministers of the Church. 
I say against yourself, father, because no one in this life is 
without sin, and reform must begin first in ourselves. 
Love of virtue must first flourish in ourselves before we 
can plant it in our neighbour. Make war against vice ; 
and if you find you cannot change the hearts of men, 
(which God alone, making use of human agents, can do), 
at least, holy father, reject and drive far from you those 
whose lives are guilty and impure. Do not, at least, 
tolerate any longer acts of debauchery ; I do not say im- 
moral dispositions, because you cannot command men's 
wills, but you caw forbid their acts. No more simony, no 
more excess of pleasures and luxury, no more gambling, 
no more buying and selling of that which belongs to the 
poor, no more merchandise of the holy things, and of the 
blood of Christ, no more priests and canons who, while 
they ought to be mirrors of virtue, are barterers and cheats, 

232 Catliarine of Siena. 

spreading all around them the contagion of their own 
lechery and impurity." She mourns for the Church and 
for the souls which are lost : " I am as one who has not 
where to lay her head ; for wherever I turn I see the 
inferno of many iniquities, and the poison of egotism ; and 
above all in our city of Rome, which ought to be a holy 
place, we see a den of thieves ; and all through the fault of 
these wicked pastors, who have never leproved sin, either 
in words or by their own lives. . . . Self-love will 
make men lise up against you, father; they will not 
endure your reproofs. Kindle in your breast, nevertheless, 
the fire of holy justice, and be fearless, for you have need 
of courage and a manly heart. ' If God be with us, who 
can be against us ? ' Rejoice, then, and be glad, for one 
day your joy will be full. After all these toils the true 
repose will come — the reformation of the Church. Though 
you should see yourself deserted by all, do not slacken 
your pace in this rugged path, but run all the more per- 
severingly, fortified by faith, guided by the light of truth, 
and upheld by constant prayer, and the companionship of 
the servants of God. . . . Seek out good men. Besides 
the Divine aid you need the aid of God's servants, who 
will counsel you with faith and sincerity, and without 
passion or self-seeking. It seems to me you are greatly in 
need, fathei', of such counsellors. I would fain no longer 
write, but speak with you ; I would be on the field of battle 
by your side, bearing every trial, and combating till death for 
the truth, for the honour of the Lord, and for the reform 
of the Church. Pardon me if I have spoken too boldly. 
I crave your blessing." 

It will be necessary to return for a moment to the 

Peace between Florence and the Church. 233 

events of three months previously, Catharine had retired 
for a short time to Vallombrosa, near Florence. Towards 
the end of June she sent Friars Bartolommeo and John 
Tantucci to Kome with a letter to Urban, beseeching him to 
sign the treaty of peace with Florence which had been 
agreed upon at Sarzana. She entreated him not to give 
too much heed to the reports which might have reached 
him of the revolution in Florence, for which the mass of the 
people, she said, were not so much to blame as some furious 
and selfish spirits who had incited them to violence. Urban 
responded at once to her appeal, and that of the chief 
magistrates of Florence. He sent two legates from Rome, 
who pronounced solemnly the removal of the ban of ex- 
communication from the republic ; the churches were opened 
again, and new life and hope seemed at once to be com- 
municated to the people of Florence, despite the still dark 
and troubled state of internal politics. Some weeks later 
the ratification of the treaty of peace, with a letter from the 
Pope, was received and read publicly before the assembled 
people in the great Piazza. Catharine's joy was un- 
bounded. She wrote a letter to the magistrates of Siena, 
to be read to all her friends in that city, in which she called 
upon them to praise God, who had heard the prayers of 
his people. She had returned to Florence from Vallom- 
brosa, and had strengthened by her presence and coun- 
sels her friends the Soderini family, the Canigiani, and 
others. The head of the family of the Canigiani had 
been deprived in the revolution of all the offices he had 
held; his house had been burned and his property con- 
fiscated. Young Barduccio Canigiani, who had fled from 
the burning house with his father and mother, became 

234 Catharine of Siena. 

from this time the constant companion and the secretary of 
Catharine till her death. He returned with her to Siena 
towards the end of July. She spent a part of the autumn 
of 1378 in composing her book, the "Dialogue," much of 
which Barduccio transcribed for her. 

The revolution of the Ciompi was not finally subdued 
until the end of August. The demands of the revolution- 
aries had continued to become more and more immoderate 
and their conduct more tyrannical. Great numbers of the 
citizens, of both the Guelph and the Ghibelline party, 
retired from the scene of strife to the country, or to other 
cities ; the priors of the Great and Inferior Arts followed this 
example and went into voluntary exile, with the exception 
of Acciamoli and Nero, two of the most courageous of those 
who had laboured to restrain the popular frenzy. These 
two met one day alone, in the Palazzo Pubblico, and realized 
that they were the only remaining magistrates in the city. 
They listened for a moment to the roar and tramp of the 
multitude without, glanced round at the vacant offices 
and deserted corridors, and then decided to place the keys 
of the palace in the hands of the people, and take their 
departure. The doors of the palace were now thrown 
wide open, and the mob rushed in, — the triumphant mob 
which had now got rid of all government and all laws, 
and had seen the last of its magistrates depart. The even- 
ing before, this mob had elevated one of their own num- 
ber, a wool-carder, to the office of Gonfalonier of Justice. 
His name was Michael Lando. At this moment Michael 
Lando appeared, uncombed and unwashed, his clothes 
hanging in rags, and his feet and legs bare from the 
knees. He rushed up the great stairs of the palace, 

Michael Lando. 236 

followed by the people; when he reached the audience 
chamber he turned and faced the multitude, and shouted, 
"This palace is yours, O sovereign people ; this city is 
yours ! — what is now your sovereign will ? " The people 
with one voice replied that Lando must continue to be 
Gonfalonier of Justice, and establish a reformed govern- 
ment. Michael Lando was master of the people ; he might 
at this moment have instituted an absolute government and 
made himself tyrant of Florence. His rule would have been 
as absolute as that of the Duke of Athens. But happily for 
the republic, Michael was a patriot : he sincerely loved 
liberty and his country. He set himself at once to re- 
establish order, and took stern means to make the laws 
respected and obeyed. He recalled and re-assembled the 
Syndics of the Arts, and proceeded to make new elections- 
from the middle classes of the people. The new govern- 
ment was formed on the same principles as the former ; but 
the men who composed it were for the most part new, and 
on the whole well chosen. The malcontents and disorderly 
mob were astonished; and, disappointed of their hoped- 
for plunder and license, they came in a threatening manner 
to the palace to complain. Michael told them plainly that 
their manner proved in itself that their demands were 
contrary to the laws ; he commanded them at once to lay 
down their arms ; for he would yield nothing to force. 
By his firmness during several weeks of conflict, he 
quelled the revolutionaries, and quietness was to some 
degree restored. Nicolas Soderini and other citizens 
were permitted to return. The Eight of War were 
the only members of the former government who had 
remained during this time in Florence. They had made 

236 Catharine of Siena. 

use of the people for their own ends, and were now deter- 
mined to share with them the fruits of victory. They 
opposed Lando in his schemes for reform, and proclaimed 
one of their own number head of the government. But 
Lando sent for them and informed them that the people 
had won the right to govern themselves, and that the 
counsels of the Eight were now no longer needed. He then 
ordered them to leave the palace. " Thus those who had 
let loose the passions of the populace in the hope of using 
them in their own interests, were the first to be duped and 
destroyed by their own guilty policy." ^ 

^ Machiavelli, Lib. iii. , p. 240. 


Catharine was now thirty-one years of age. The drama 
of her life began to draw to its close. The evening of 
her days — if the term can be justly made use of in her 
case — was not peaceful. It passed in the midst of 
tumult : of storms overhead, and conflict within. She 
was not permitted to see her cherished hopes for the 
reformation of the Church in any but the feeblest manner 
fulfilled. Yet her faith did not fail. Like many others 
who have given themselves to God, with desire to be 
made his instruments in the working out of his merciful 
designs, she was led, step by step, into a larger sphere of 
aim and hope and action, than in the beginning of her 
career she had dreamed of. Like many other reformers, 
she at first hoped for a more quick return for her labours ; 
but as the years went on, she learned, as they have 
learned, that God had greater designs in view than any 
which came within their human calculations ; that her 
place in the great work was that of a pioneer ; that after 
she had laboured, others would enter into the reward of 
her labours ; and that, although the fields were already 
white to the harvest, the time of reaping was not yet. 
She learned to look, without loss of faith, even upon the 
deepening of the surrounding darkness, the prelude to 
the coming dawn. She acknowledged the necessity and 

238 Catharine of Siena. 

the justice of great tribulations to be endured before peace 
could rest upon Zion. She foresaw a further letting loose 
of the powers of hell before the arm of the Lord should be 
fully revealed for their destruction. For " to the Lord one 
■day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one 
day. Therefore impatience was subdued, while hope re- 
mained in greater strength than before. Though the 
shadows darkened on her earthly path, and the clouds 
gathered over her head as she advanced to her eternal rest, 
she continued firm in the faith that the time would come 
when the knowledge of the Lord should fill the whole earth. 
Her spiritual vision was fortified, and the horizon of her 
hopes extended. Her writings, towards the close of her 
life, reveal the increasing yearning of her soul over her 
fellow men. She dwelt upon the Lord's command to his 
disciples to " Go into all the world, and teach all nations," 
and to "preach the Gospel to every creature." Hers was 
not a soul which could contentedly contemplate a " world 
lying in wickedness," a desert land unreclaimed for God, 
outside the boundaries of a privileged church or nation. 
No amount of wickedness appalled her into the belief 
that any sinners must be left to perish as outcasts from 
God and hope. In her last exhortations to her friends 
she bade them hope for all ; " for there is no man on 
earth," she said, "however wicked, who may not repent 
and live," But in order to win the dark and erring mul- 
titudes to the fold, the Church, which possessed the 
saving knowledge, the Church, which had been com- 
missioned to evangelize the world, must first be purged, 
reformed, and revived ; and she held fast the belief that 
the day of purification would come for the Church, the 

Her Character as a Reformer. 239 

spouse of Christ, "the antechamber of the kingdom of glory, 
the image of the celestial," as says St. Ambrose. She did 
not shrink from the scourging and mutilation which she 
foresaw to be in store for it, " God will absolutely purge 
his Church," she wrote to Urban, " whether you do your 
utmost or not to accomplish that reform for the promotion 
of which you are elevated to a position of so great dignity. 
He will not spare. He will cut away without fail all the 
rotten wood of this tree, and will plant it again in a manner 
of his own." There can be little doubt that, had she lived 
two centuries later, in the midst of the convulsion which rent 
Christendom, she would have stood firm on the side of evan- 
gelic truth, and joined her protest to that of the Reformers. 
We cannot doubt that she, who so feared and abhorred 
the temporal domination and worldly magnificence of the 
Church, Avould have hailed the time when the pride of 
ecclesiastical Rome should be laid low ; and above all, that 
she would have rejoiced to see the word of God, unchained 
and free, taking wings, and flying to the ends of the earth, 
the priceless possession of the nations, bringing to each in 
their own tongue the glad tidings of salvation. 

But Catharine never raised a protest, it may be said, 
against false doctrine. Her efforts were directed solely 
to moral reformation, her attacks being mainly aimed at 
the vices, worldliness, and ungodliness of the clergy. 
The same may be asserted concerning the earlier part of 
the career of almost all the great reformers of the suc- 
ceeding centuries. Savonarola, Wyclitfe, Huss, and 
Luther, each and all attacked in the first instance the 
immoral and irreligious life of the clergy, and denounced 
the practical abuses and corruptions of the Church. 

240 CailMiine of Siena. 

Like St. John the Baptist, they at first preached, " prepare 
ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight ; " like him, 
they called upon all men to repent and put away their sins, 
in expectation of the salvation of the Lord which was at 
hand. Thns did Catharine. She, like her countryman 
Savonarola, clung firmly to the life which still remained 
buried amidst corruption, in the heart of the ancient tree, 
while she feared not to see the whole mass of the " rotten 
wood " cut away. It was only by degrees that the later 
reformers were each led on to a wider view and a deeper in- 
sight, and were taught to perceive wherein the doctrine as 
well as practice of the Church of Rome was based on error. 
But Catharine's life was short ; her brief career was crowded 
with active ministrations. There was not room in it for 
much that she might have achieved, spoken, and written, had 
her life been prolonged ; nor perhaps was there pause 
enough in her life to have made it possible for her to enter 
upon the grave and laborious task of doctrinal controversy 
and reform. Her own example and teaching indicated, 
however, a great simplicity of belief in her own case. It 
would be difficult to give a distinct answer to the question 
as to what were her views or opinions on points of doc- 
trine rejected by the reformed churches ; for in her works 
there is found little or no allusion to many of these 
points. Probably if herself questioned as to her belief, 
she would have replied, as a daughter of the Church, that 
she held all that was taught by the Church. Yet many 
of these doctrines taught by the Koman Church appear 
to have dropped out of her soul and life, so to speak ; or 
rather, it may be said, the one pre-eminent truth which 
she loved, above all other, so filled her soul that it over- 

The Simplicity of her Belief. 241 

shadowed and eclipsed all other teachings. Her writings 
and discourses are permeated from first to last with that 
simple evangelic truth, that Jesus Christ the Son of God 
took upon himself our nature, and died and rose again 
for our redemption ; that by apprehending and loving this 
truth, by believing in and by loving him who thus loved 
us, we are saved, and by love are made conformable to him. 
"This," as she said to the Pisan, Albizi, "this is enough for 
you and me. This is the true science." In the matter of 
the dogmas concerning prayers for the dead, the invocation 
of saints, the "real presence," &c., it is difficult, nay, indeed, 
impossible, exactly to formulate her views, seeing that she 
rarely expressed herself in a positive manner on these 
subjects. Her written prayers are all, with one exception, 
addressed to the Father in Heaven, to Jesus Christ, and to 
the Eternal Spirit who helpeth our infirmities. The one 
exception is the prayer written on the feast of the Annun- 
ciation. In the first sentences of this she apostrophizes the 
Virgin Mary, enumerating her virtues, and setting these 
forth before her own soul as worthy of imitation. This 
apostrophe breaks off, however, suddenly into an address to 
God. " I contemplate, O Eternal ! this supreme act of 
thine (the Incarnation), and perceive how thou hast re- 
garded the dignity and glory of human nature. Love urged 
thee to create man. Love urged thee to redeem him. . . . 
Thy power and thy love have done all." . . . 

Catharine, then, was not a reformer in the sense of 
being an opponent of erroneous doctrine, or a promulgator 
of a purer creed. The lessons to be derived from the 
study of her life do not lie in the direction thus indicated. 
It is something else which we learn from her. It is, more- 


242 Catharine of Siena. 

over, a useful and a holy lesson. She may have seen 
more or less dimly the truth concerning the dogmas 
above mentioned ; but one truth she certainly saw 
clearly ; and she held with all her heart and soul and 
strength to that truth. She shrank from no toil nor pain 
nor sacrifice in order that she might find and win Christ, 
and be found in him, and that thus she might bring 
blessing to man. Her philosophy was based upon a deep 
humility, and a conviction of the weakness and sinfulness 
of man. Yet she perceived and realized withal, — that 
which many who talk loudly of progress and the perfecti- 
bility of the human race do not see, — the beauty and worth 
of every human soul, even in the midst of its utmost 
ignorance or bondage to sin. She loved, she prayed, she 
endured. She fought a good fight; and she fell, in the 
heat of the battle, vanquished, and yet a conqueror. 

During the few months of comparative repose which 
Catharine had enjoyed at Siena, after her return from 
Florence, she completed her work, "The Dialogue," and 
wrote many letters to Italian politicians and ecclesiastics, 
in order to fortify them in their attachment to the cause of 
Urban VI. She corresponded also unremittingly with 
Urban concerning the reform of the Church. 

Eaymond's narrative continues : " The Sovereign Pontiff 
Urban VI., who had become personally acquainted with 
Catharine at Avignon, commanded me (in October, 1378) 
to write to her, and beseech her to come to Rome, for he 
desired her presence and support in the midst of the 
troubles which surrounded him. I wrote to Catharine, who 
replied to me thus : ' Father, several persons of Siena, and 
many sisters of my order, think that I travel too much. 

Called to Rome. 243 

They are greatly scandalized by it, and say that a religious 
ought not to be ever on the wing. I do not think that 
these reproaches ought to trouble me, for I have never 
ti-avelled except by the will of God, or that of the Sovereign 
Pontiff, and for the salvation of souls ; but in order to 
avoid giving any cause of offence to my neighbours, I had 
resolved not to leave my home again. Nevertheless, if the 
holy father desires that I should go to Rome, his will, and 
not mine, must be done. In this case, will you be so good 
as to intimate to me his will in a written document, signed 
by himself, so that those who are offended at my travelling 
about, may know that I do not undertake this journey of 
my own initiative.' I communicated this reply to the 
Sovereign Pontiff, who gave me an order for Catharine to 
repair to Rome." 

Catharine prepared for her departure without delay. 
More than forty persons accompanied her. The number 
would have been much greater had she not opposed the 
wishes of many in this respect. Great nobles of Siena 
besought her to suffer them to go with her on this, 
which seemed to them destined to be a momentous 
journey, to the capital of Christendom. Some few of 
these nobles did accompany her, on foot, and in the garb 
of poverty. Her mother, Alessia, Lysa, and Giovanna 
di Capo, were among the women of the group. Catha- 
rine invited these pilgrims to form an agreement to live 
in great simplicity and poverty while in Rome, putting 
their trust in divine providence. This she did, in order 
the more effectually to rebuke the luxury of the times. 
Catharine turned as she left her native city, and gazed 


244 Catharine of Siena. 

long upon its loved walls and towers, the grassy slopes 
falling from its ramparts, and the winding roads and paths 
so familiar to her from childhood. Offering up a prayer for 
the peace of her fellow-citizens, she turned her face towards 
Eome. She never saw Siena again, for she died in Kome 
one year and four months from that time. Perhaps she had 
some dim presentiment of the moral and spiritual martyrdom 
throng h which she was shortly to pass ; but her road was still 
upward and onward. Like St. Paul, who thirteen centuries 
before had entered Rome, also to suffer and to die there, she 
" pressed forward toward the mark of the prize of her high 
calling in Christ Jesus." Her thoughts seemed to dwell 
much at that time on the career and martyrdom of the 
great Apostle of the Gentiles. In a prayer written soon 
after reaching Rome these words occur : " Eternal Father, 
thou didst send thy apostles as lights into the world. 
We are in greater need than ever before of such light; 
raise up among us, we beseech thee, another Paul, to re- 
buke and revive us, and bring us light." She constantly 
spoke of the martyrs. In writing from Rome to Stephen, 
who had not accompanied her, she says : " The blood of 
the holy martyrs who so willingly gave their lives for him 
who is the Life, witnesses against our coldness, and cries 
to you and others to arise to the help of the holy 
Church ; " and again, " I walk in paths bedewed with 
the blood of the martyrs." She and her companions 
reached Rome on the 28th October, 1378, shortly after 
the election of the anti-Pope Clement VII. They took 
up their abode in a house in the street of Santa Chiara. 
Here Catharine established a simple rule of life for her 

Address to the Consistory in Borne. 245 

numerous family, in order that the residence in Rome 
might prove useful to themselves and others. They had 
neither gold nor silver ; but God provided for their few and 
simple wants. They had all things in common, following 
the example of the primitive Christians. She arranged 
that the women should each in turn charge themselves 
for one week with the task of providing for the necessities 
of the household, while the rest devoted themselves to work 
and to prayer. Alessia was placed in charge over all, 

A few days after her arrival in Eome, Catharine re- 
ceived a message from Pope Urban, desiring that she 
would come to the Consistory, and speak before the as- 
sembled cardinals on the subject of the Church, and in 
particular on the Schism and the present troubles. She 
obeyed. " She spoke learnedly and at some length, ex- 
horting all to constancy and firmness." She thus con- 
cluded : " God, — most reverend father, — is eternal wisdom 
and strength, and we, if we desire to be invincible, must 
put our confidence in him. What harm can come to him 
who, in Christ, is clothed with the vesture of divine for- 
titude 1 Whom do the blows of your enemies injure 1 
Themselves only. Their arrows return upon their own 
breasts. Arise, then ; be of good courage, father. Arise, 
and be of good courage, ye also, pastors, who surround 
the chief pastor. Enter into this conflict without fear. If 
God is with you, who can be against you 1 Unite your- 
selves with Christ, and fight, like men, for him 

Yes, fight; but let your only weapons be repentance and 
pmyer, virtue and love." When she had ceased speaking, 
Urban appeared full of wonder. He gave a brief r^-umd 
of her address, and then turned to the cardinals and said : 

246 Cathanne of Siena. 

"How deeply blamable are we, brethren, when we give 
way to hesitation and fear. This poor humble woman 
confounds us. I call her poor and humble, not in con- 
tempt, but in allusion to the weakness of her sex.^ It 
would be natural that she should be timid, even though 
we were of good heart ; and see, whereas we are fearful, 
she is tranquil and fearless, and encourages us with her 
noble words. Does she not put us all to shame 1 " Then 
after a pause he added, with ardour and a radiant coun- 
tenance, "What should Christ's Vicar fear, though the 
whole world were against him 1 Christ the Omnipotent 
is stronger than the world. He can never forsake his 

The Schismatics did wisely to choose Hobert of Geneva 
as their leader. He was " the man of the Schism." He 
was related to several of the most powerful princely 
families in Europe. He was young, enterprising, and 
ambitious. He had not completed his thirty-sixth year 
Avhen he was elected as Clement VH. He was, never- 
theless, an experienced soldier, and well versed in all the 
intrigues of courts and factions. The wholesale massacre 
of the inhabitants of Cesena illustrated his indomitable 
will in the performance of whatever he had resolved upon. 
He feared not God, neither regarded man. He said 
openly, " Assuredly, I would not serve God if I did not 
find it profitable." 2 He was tall of stature, powerfully 
built, and very handsome ; his manners were graceful 

^ " Questa doimicciiiola ci confoiide ; donnicciuola dico, now per 
dispregio, ma per espressioiie della naturale frugilita niuliebre. — 
Raymond, Vita di S. Catariiia, Italian Version. 

* "Certe non servireiu Deo, si non faceret mihi bonum." — 
RiNALDi, ii , 30. 

The Gi-eat Schism. 247 

and courtly, his appearance in public was commanding, and 
his dress always magnificent. He was lavish in expenditure, 
and by the prof useness of his gifts and bribes, he won many 
to his side. He was eloquent and self-possessed, and 
unscrupulous in the use of every art by which men win 

Germany, Bohemia, Hungary, England, and almost the 
whole of Italy held to Urban ; France, Spain, and Savoy 
were on the side of Clement. The English clergy gave as 
their reason for adhering to Urban that "a report had 
reached England that Clement was a man of blood." Queen 
Joanna of Naples had at first sent ambassadors to Urban 
to congratulate him on his election. She had replied to the 
earnest letters which Catharine had written to her from 
Siena, " the words of a saint will certainly not be lost upon 
me." But, under the influence of personal and political 
motives, she soon after declared herself openly on the side 
of Clement, The Clementines also had a footing in Rome 
itself. The strong castle of St. Angelo, which dominated 
the approaches to the Vatican, was commanded by a French 
ally of Clement, the Captain Rostagno. "There now began 
to be witnessed," says Muratori, "a series of monstrous 
scandals in the Cluirch. Urban excommunicated Clement 
and his cardinals, while Clement, on his part, excommunicated 
Urban and his followers. The same benefices were bestowed 
on different persons by the rival popes, and each appointed 
his own bishop to every see which became vacant. Hence 
arose numberless private and public conflicts, strifes, and 
murders. The nobles espoused the side of one or the 
other as it best served their own interests. . . . Many of 
the adherents of Urban were arrested, executed, or 

248 Catharine of Siena. 

banished by the Clementines, and similar injustices and 
outrages were perpetrated on the other side." Clement, 
however, possessed great resources, and was able to buy 
many adherents to his side, and to collect a large army of 
Bretons and Gascons; while Urban, among the ruins of 
Rome, found himself impoverished on all sides. He was 
obliged to make great sacrifices to procure the necessary 
resources for defence. He himself lived almost in poverty. 
He could not inhabit the Vatican, owing to its proximity to 
the castle of St. Angelo. He counselled the cardinals to 
give up every superfluity, in order to be able to contribute 
to the defence of the Church. On the advice of Catharine, 
he appointed a commission to negotiate the sale of a part of 
the domains of the Church ; and the gold and silver 
chalices, crosses, and candelabra of the churches were changed 
into money.^ "The Church," said Catharine, "has no need 
of perfumes, of incense, or of precious stones and gold. 
She needs courage and faith." In the same spirit she 
wrote to Urban concerning the reform of the Church (for 
she addressed several letters to him while in Rome, where 
he also was) : " I desire not that you should pause to direct 
your attention to the subject of vestments, and considera- 
tions of more or less importance of this nature ; but that 
you should at once seek men who will act uprightly, and 
not with falseness or reserves ; men who are above being 
seduced by flatteries or gold, and who will oppose vice 
and encourage virtue." 

Catharine judged that the most necessary thing to be 
done for the healing of this hateful division was to win 

1 Rinaldi, Anno 1380, N, 17. 

Joanna, Queen of Naples. 249 

France and Naples to the cause of Urban ; for without the 
support of these kingdoms the Schism could not continue. 
She constantly expressed her conviction to Urban that it 
was not Clement and his cardinals to whom attention should 
be directed, but rather to France and Naples. The vicinity 
of the kingdom of Naples to Rome would constantly en- 
danger the peace and security of the Church, through the 
infection of the spirit of rebellion ; whereas the alliance of 
that kingdom would be the greatest support to the Pope. 
Catharine, therefore, applied all her energies to convince the 
conscience and win the heart of Joanna of Naples, and of 
Charles V. of France. Her correspondence with the former 
had created in her heart a strong desire to see that unhappy 
woman face to face. Not only did she desire to gain her 
as an adherent to Urban, but far more, it seems, did she 
wish to win that poor soul to Christ. Her letters to 
Joanna are numerous and long, and full of the most passion- 
ate and tender pleadings and warnings which one woman 
could address to another on matters vital to her present 
and eternal interests. Joanna was then more than fifty 
years of age; she still possessed great beauty and personal 
ascendency.^ Her life had been an unhappy one. She had 
been crowned queen at the age of nineteen ; she had had 
four husbands ; but she had no child to succeed her. Her 
first husband was the young Andrea, brother of Ludwig, 
King of Hungary. The horrible tragedy of his death, 
occurring a short time after the marriage, created a great 

1 An old chronicle of Bologna Bays that Queen Joanna was a 
woman of great spirit and adventure, and that she could leap upon 
the back of a horse when it was in full gallop, and command it per- 

250 Catharine of Siena. 

sensation in Europe. The Court had gone for the summer 
to Aversa. At midnight, September 18th, 1345, two mes- 
sengers entered in haste the bedchamber of the queen and 
the prince, on the pretext that a revolution had broken 
out in Naples, which required the immediate return of 
Andrea. The young prince arose in haste and followed 
the messengers, who strangled him in a gallery of the castle, 
and then threw his body from a window into the garden. 
It was supposed at first by those who found the corpse that 
he had accidentally fallen from the window, while wander- 
ing through the castle in the dark. But the indifference of 
the queen, who remained alone in her chamber till the 
morning, and the known fact of an intrigue and suspicion 
of a secret alliance she had already formed witli Prince 
Louis of Taranto, whom she afterwards married, were suffi- 
cient to convince most persons that she had connived at, if 
not instigated, the horrible deed. The Neapolitans received 
her coldly ; Ludwig, King of Hungary, denounced her 
openly ; and her whole future life was a continual but un- 
availing attempt at flight from the pursuit of this haunting- 
shadow, the dark deed of her youth. Like our Mary Queen 
of Scots, she had, among historians, on one side ardent de- 
fenders and admirers, and on she other, severe judges and 
bitter enemies. Her third husband was the Infanta of Spain, 
who separated himself from her, and her fourth was Otho, 
Duke of Brunswick, who survived her. It was during 
lier unpopularity in consequence of the suspicions at 
taching to her in connection with Andrea's death, that 
she fled to Provence, where, finding herself in great need 
of resources, she sold her large domains in that country 
to the Popes of Avignon. Joanna appears not to have 

Joanna, Queen of Naples. 251 

been unmoved by the ardent appeals of Catharine. Her 
heart was ill at ease, and there had been no peace for her in 
life since the tragedy cf her youth. Catharine wrote to her 
again and again, dictating her letters on her knees, with 
strong crying and supplication to G-od for her unhappy 
sister. These letters spoke of pardon and perfect cleansing, 
of infinite love and holy peace. They were found, at the 
time of the collection of Catharine's letters, carefully sealed, 
and with evidence of having been much read. We are, 
however, left in the dark as to whether Queen Joanna ever 
opened her heart to the truths of which Catharine wrote, 
or whether she retained any memory of her words of love 
and hope, to console her in her own last dark hours. She 
died two years after Catharine's death. Charles Durazzo, 
cousin of the murdered Andrea, and nephew of Ludwig, 
King of Hungary, was the next heir to the kingdom of 
Naples ; but Joanna, afraid and jealous of the influence of 
that family, nominated as her successor, Louis, Duke of 
Anjou, of the royal family of France. Charles Durazzo, 
on receiving intelligence of this, set out from Hungary 
with a numerous army, and marched to Naples to defend 
his right of succession. After many manoeuvres on both 
sides, a collision took place, in which Charles defeated 
the troops of the queen, and took her prisoner. She 
was imprisoned in the castle of San Felice, where she 
lingered many months. A few weeks before her death 
she sent to her friends and defenders the message, " think 
no more of me, except to make preparation for my 
funeral, and to pray for my soul." Charles Durazzo, hear- 
ing of the approach by sea of the Duke of Anjou with an 
army to release the queen, deemed it expedient to place 

252 Catharine of Siena. 

that unhappy lady beyond all possibility of recovering her 
crown, and sent an assassin to the castle, who strangled 
Queen Joanna with a silken sash, thus causing her to die 
the death of Andrea. 

But to return : Catharine had directed all her energies to 
win and confirm, in the first place, all the Italian powers 
who were wavering in their allegiance to Urban. Her 
reputation for saintliness and for singleness of purpose, and 
the love which the Italians generally bore for her, gave her 
great power in persuasion with her own countrymen. By 
her efforts mainly, the fidelity of Siena, Florence, Perugia, 
Bologna, and Venice was assured. The ambassadors, sent 
from these and other cities to congratulate Urban on his 
election, had not, for the most part, taken home a good 
report of their reception, or of the courtesy of the Pontiff. 
"How is it that the Pope makes so many enemies V it was 
asked. " It is not what he does," one ambassador replied, 
"but his manner of doing it, which gives offence." Mala- 
volti, the father of the chronicler of Siena, was one of the 
ambassadors appointed by that city to congratulate Urban. 
The chronicler says that the stiflfness and asperity which 
the Pontiff" showed to his father and the other Sienese am- 
bassadors " were intolerable, the more so because Urban 
was not of high birth, and had been elevated to the 
Papacy beyond his utmost hopes, and in spite of his 
sour and difficult temper." All the gracious kindness 
and unconquerable energy of Catharine, consequently 
only availed to ward off during the brief period of her 
own life the consequences of Urban's unchristian and 
unchastened temper. After her death he was continually 
at cross-purposes with those around him, and by his 

The Princess of Sweden. 253 

rude disposition contrived to estrange even his sincerest par- 
tisans. Yet his judgment of the state of the Church and the 
world in his day, was courageous and truthful. He was also 
stern with himself, if he was so with others ; and his desire 
for the reformation of morals was strong and sincere. 

Catharine, Princess of Sweden, daughter of the St. 
Bridget, the widowed Queen of Sweden, already men- 
tioned, happened to be residing in Rome at this time. 
She bore a high reputation for wisdom and piety, and 
was beatified in the year 1398 by Boniface IX. Urban 
had perceived the strong yearning of heart which Catha- 
rine of Siena had to bring Queen Joanna to repen- 
tance and faith in Christ, as well as to win the support 
of the kingdom of Naples for himself. He conceived 
therefore the design of sending her, together with 
Catharine of Sweden, to the Court of Naples, on a mis- 
sion both public and personal. Raymond says : " Our 
Catharine did not shrink from the charge it was intended 
to impose on her, and offered to go without delay ; but 
the Princess of Sweden did not like to undertake the 
voyage, and refused in my very presence the mission 
that was proposed to her." "Our Catharine" paid a 
visit to the Swedish princess, in her humble retreat in 
the little monastery of the Clarissas in Rome. The 
first part of their interview was of a diplomatic nature. 
Catharine of Siena, full of zeal and courage, did not 
imagine that a woman of the race of the stem North 
could hesitate to obey the wish of the Pontiff, and be- 
come an ambassador to a Court with which she was 
already acquainted. But the Swedish princess hesitated, 
and after a short discussion of the proposed embassy, she 

254 Catharine of Siena. 

began to speak of the experience which her longer life had 
given her (she was fifteen years older than Catharine), and 
of her knowledge of men. She recounted how she had 
been twice to Naples, to gather up there remembrances of 
her sainted mother ; she spoke of the worldliness of the 
Neapolitan Court, and endeavoured to impress upon Catha- 
rine how fruitless such an embassy as that proposed by Urban 
was likely to be. The Swedish princess had had the repu- 
tation of extraordinary beauty, and she still retained much 
of the freshness of youth, with a most attractive grace of 
person and manner. She entertained Catharine with the 
story of her life, to which the Sienese, always ready and 
hoping for instruction from the lips of a fellow-Christian, 
listened attentively. " My royal mother, St. Bridget," the 
princess began, " was, as you know, left a widow, and went 
on a pilgrimage to Rome. I felt, from my earliest years, a 
great desire springing up in me to follow her manner of 
life, and to rejoin her at the tombs of the Apostles. Many 
obstacles, however, presented themselves. The greatest 
of all was the ardent love of Prince Edgar, to whom I 
had been affianced. For his sake I remained at home 
for some time ; but seeing my heart set upon another 
kind of life, Prince Edgar at last consented to give me 
up, and to let me go to Rome. In March, 1350, he him- 
self accompanied me to the vessel, and confided me to 
the care of the venerable Marechal Gustave Thunasson. 
In August we arrived in Rome. For eight days I 
sought my mother in vain. Every day I went to St. 
Peter's, hoping to find her among the crowd of pilgrims. 
How great was my joy at last, when I felt her tender 
arms around me, and her kiss on my cheek ! She had 

The Princess of Sweden. 255 

retTirned from Bologna, where she had been engaged in the 
reform of monasteries. . . . You can form no idea," 
continued the princess, " of the terrible state of Rome at 
that time. The licentiousness and brutality of manners 
were so great that my mother was obliged to hide me ; and 
we could not even visit the sanctuary and temples without 
being attended by an imposing escort. I was then twenty 
years of age. All the great lords of Rome desired my hand 
in marriage. I did not know how to escape them. In vain 
I assured them that I had vowed to live a virgin ; this did 
not satisfy them. Some, blinded by passion, even en- 
deavoured to carry me off by violence, having failed to win 
me by promises and flatteries.^ One day I accompanied 
some pious women to the tomb of St. Sebastian in the 
Catacombs. A young noble who had aspired to my hand, 
had concealed himself with his followers among the vines 
near the entrance, with the intention of carrying me off 
when we reappeared. But just at the moment when we 
were about to appear, a stag darted out of the thicket near 
them ; they followed it a little way, and meanwhile we had 
passed, and were safely entering the city.2 My mother had 
had a presentiment of the danger and the deliverance I had 
met with, and when I returned to the house she met me 
with the words, ' Blessed be the stag which has saved my 

1 " Uncle multi magnates cupiebant earn matrimonialiter sibi 
copulari. Ipsi vero cieco amore capti, quod proniissioiiibus et 
blanditiis non poterant, minis et violentiis extorquere moliuntur." — 
Life of Catharine of Sweden, at the end of the lievelations of 8t. 
Bridf/et, printed in Rome, 1550, cap. viii. 

2 Catholic art always represents St. Catharine of Sweden with a 
stag by her side. 

256 Catharine of Siena. 

child from the beast of prey ! ' " The princess then pro- 
ceeded to tell Catharine of adventures she had gone 
through on a journey to Assisi to visit the Portiuncula 
of St. Francis; there they fell among brigands, and she 
recounted the means taken by her mother to save her, her 
beautiful daughter, from the brutality of these licentious 
men ; again, how, on returning to Rome, and being of a 
more mature age, she was permitted to nurse the sick in 
the hospitals ; and how she founded, near her mother's 
house, a hospital especially devoted to pilgrims from Swe- 
den and the north of Europe ; how, when her mother died, 
she bore her corpse to the sepulchre of her ancestors at 
Wastena ; and how she afterwards visited Naples, there to 
gather up all the recollections of her mother's missions and 
teaching which the Neapolitans had cherished. Finally, 
after enlarging on the disorders and dangers she had found 
in Naples, and on its present unhappy condition, she con- 
cluded by declaring, " Ah no ! I can never return to Naples. 
God ever protected me while there ; but, though I do not 
doubt his power, I dare not tempt his merciful providence. 
Our journey there would be useless for them, and danger- 
ous, perhaps even fatal, for us." 

The Swedish princess ceased, and Catharine of Siena, 
who had all along been silent, continued to be so. She was 
sitting on the ground, and two large tears rolled down her 
face and fell upon her hands. What were the thoughts of 
our Catharine at that moment ? The story does not tell 
us. But as we contemplate these two, the stern and 
simple Sienese full of thoughts of noble and useful enter- 
prise, and the beautiful high-born lady pleasantly prat- 
tling of the romance of her own past life, the wondrous 

7'he Princess of Sweden. 257 

beauty of her youth, and her many suitors, we are con- 
strained to acknowledge that there are in the Roman 
Calendars saints of widely different degrees of self-for- 
getfulness and magnanimity. 

After some minutes of silence, Father Raymond, who was 
present, said to the Swedish princess: "Venerable sister, we 
have all confidence in your experience, and I will take care 
to report to the Sovereign Pontiff what I have now heard." 
And they separated. Raymond continues the narrative : 
" I acknowledge that, through imperfection of judgment 
and want of faith, I myself did not approve the project of 
the Sovereign Pontiff. I thought that the reputation of 
women consecrated to God is so precious, that we ought to 
beware of tarnishing it by the least appearance of evil, or 
breath of suspicion. The Queen of Naples might, I thought, 
follow the counsels of certain agents of Satan by whom 
she was surrounded, and cause these two good women to 
be insulted, or forbid them an entrance into Naples. I 
went therefore the same afternoon to Pope Urban, in one 
of the halls of the Palace of the Lateran, and laid before 
him my views on the subject. The Sovereign Pontiff 
looked disconcerted ; he remained a long time in reflection, 
with his head leaning upon his hands. At last he looked 
up, and said : * Your opinion deserves weight. It is more 
prudent for them not to go.' Although the evening was 
far advanced I went to Catharine to communicate to her 
the decision of the Pontiff." Catharine was at that time 
suffering from great exhaustion, and had cast herself on 
her face across her couch, when Raymond entered to report 
his interview with Urban. He detailed to her the con- 
versation, anticipating a sense of relief for her in being 


258 Catharine of Siena. 

acquitted from so serious an obligation. But he had not yet 
fully comprehended the character of his friend. She rose 
from her bed and stood up. Tears were in her eyes, and 
she said to him, with resolution, almost with fierceness of 
voice and manner : " If Agnes, Margaret, and a multitude 
of other holy women had indulged in such fancies, and 
reasoned in this fashion, they never would have won the 
crown of martyrdom ! Think you not that we have a Spouse 
who is stronger than men, who can save us from the hands of 
the wicked, and preserve our honour in the midst of a whole 
throng of debauches ? All these objections of which you 
have spoken are foolish and vain. They spring from a miser- 
able want of faith, and not from genuine pnidence." Kay- 
mond found no words with which to reply, and remained 
humbly silent and rebuked. He says, "I blushed inwardly 
because I was still so far from her lofty standard ; and in 
my heart I admired and wondered at her constancy and 
faith. But as the Sovereign Pontiff had decided that she 
should not go, I did not dare to re-open the subject." 

Being thus thwarted in her earnest desire to speak face 
to face with Queen Joanna, who was at this moment, in the 
opinion of all, the greatest supporter of the Schism and 
hindrance to the peace of the Church in Italy, Catharine 
determined to send to her an ambassador chosen by her- 
self, with further despatches, which this ambassador should 
beg to be allowed to read to Joanna. She selected Neri 
di Landoccio, a man of engaging presence and accustomed 
to deal with men, who was now experienced in working 
for his beloved leader, and had entered deeply into all 
her feelings and wishes on this subject. Neri proceeded 
upon his mission. Though the earnest messages he carried 

Raymond is appointed to go to France. 259 

from Catharine, and his own persuasions failed to alter the 
course which Joanna had entered upon, his presence in 
Naples contributed to retain the majority of the people 
in their allegiance to Urban. Of this, more hereafter. 
Catharine wrote at the same time to several honourable 
ladies of the Court of Naples whom she hoped might 
have some influence with Joanna. All these despatches 
are found in the collection of her letters. 

Urban now conferred with Catharine concerning the 
best means to be taken to avert the calamity of a public 
declaration on the part of the King of France in favour 
of Clement, and shortly decided to send Father Raymond 
as his nuncio to the French Court. " It appeared advan- 
tageous to the Sovereign Pontiff," continues Raymond, 
" to send me into France, because he had been informed 
that it would be possible to detach the King of France, 
Charles V., from the Schism, The moment 1 became 
aware of this project, I went to take counsel with 
Catharine. Notwithstanding the regret that my absence 
would occasion her, she advised me to obey the wishes of 
the Pontiff without delay. 'Hold it for certain, father,' 
she said, ' that he is the truly-elected Vicar of Christ ; I 
desire that you should endure every risk and fatigue to 
sustain him, as you would for the Catholic faith itself.' 
I had never entertained any doubt on this subject myself, 
but this saying of Catharine so encouraged me to com- 
bat the Schism, that I consecrated myself from that 
moment to the work ; and I continually recalled it to 
my mind, in order to fortify myself in the midst of my 
difficulties and trials. Some days previous to my de- 
parture she called me to her, to converse with me con- 

s 2 

260 Catharine of Siena. 

cerning the consolations and revelations she had received 
from God ; she allowed no other persons to be present or 
to join at that time in our conversation. After an hour of 
converse, she then said to me, ' Now go whither God calls 
you. I think that in this life we shall never again dis- 
course together as we have just now done.' Her prediction 
was accomplished. I departed, and she remained. Before 
my return she had gone to her heavenly home, and I had 
no more the blessing of listening to her lessons of holiness." 
Catharine accompanied her friend to Ostia, where he was 
to embark ; and there, where St. Augustine received the 
parting words of his mother, Monica, Raymond spoke his 
last adieu to her to whom he owed, under God, his own 
spiritual life. " It was for this reason, probably," continues 
Raymond, " that thinking she should see me no more on 
earth, she accompanied me to the place where I was to 
embark, wishing to bid me a last farewell. When we were 
about to set sail, she kneeled down on the shore, and after 
praying, made over us the sacred sign of the cross. Tears 
filled her eyes, and she gazed after us in silence ; but her 
countenance seemed to say : ' Go, my son, in safety, and 
in the name and under the protection of that blessed sign; 
but in this life thou shalt never again see her who blesses 
thee.' " Catharine remained long kneeling on the shore, 
her eyes fixed on the vessel till it became a mere speck 
on the horizon, the vessel which contained, she said, that 
" rarest treasure with which God has gifted our earth, the 
heart of an apostle." 

Catharine, as we have seen, had continually urged 
Urban to seek out and to surround himself with good 
men, and wise and honest counsellors. He appears to 

Invitations to the Servants of God. 261 

have fully recognized the need he had of such men, in order 
to give effect to his designs for the reform of the Church. 
Catharine seems to have had great faith in what might be 
accomplished by the united action of true men of God, and 
spoke to Urban of the advantage it would be to call to 
Rome without delay all the best men of the Church 
throughout Italy. This idea appears to have existed in 
her mind apart from her partisanship for Urban. She had 
hoped to find in him the fearless reformer which the times 
called for. He had very imperfectly answered to these 
hopes; but he was a sincere lover of good and virtuous men, 
and in nothing did he more readily respond to Catharine's 
counsels than in respect to this matter. He joyfully 
assented to her proposition to form an association or com- 
munity of men pre-eminent for purity of life, strength of 
faith, and tried virtue. This community would, it was 
hoped, act as a leaven, permeating gradually the whole of 
the Church, while by its united force in active effort it 
would stem and turn back the tide of immorality till now 
unchecked. On the 13th December Urban granted to 
Catharine a Brief empowering her to invite to Rome, in his 
name, whomsoever she desired or considered it useful to ask. 
She wrote without delay to the friends she had won in the 
course of her labours throughout Italy, whom she believed 
would be most able and willing to come to the rescue of 
the divided Church in its time of need. She met, it would 
appear, with an unexpected amount of difficulty in the case 
of some whose help and presence she most desired — those 
recluses whose saintly character, learning, and maturity of 
judgment would, she believed, have rendered them a strong 
support to the Pontiff in his efforts for reform. Some of 

262 Catharine of Siena. 

these replied that they did not feel it right to leave the 
solitude in which God had placed them, that they feared 
the influence of the moral atmosphere of Rome on their 
own souls, and that they believed they could best serve the 
Church by their prayers offered up in silence and solitude. 
Friar William of England and Friar Anthony of Nice were 
among the recalcitrants. It will be remembei'ed that these 
two Friars inhabited the pleasant convent of Lecceto, a few 
miles from Siena. Catharine had often had pleasant and 
u.seful intercourse with them, while sitting in the shade of 
the woods which surrounded the convent, and Friar William 
more especially had there testified to her his sorrow for the 
troubles of Italy, and formed with her many projects for 
the purification of the Church and the reformation of 
morals. Two days after receiving the pontifical Brief, she 
addressed to Friars William and Anthony the following 
letter : " My dear sons in Jesus Christ, I, Catharine, the 
servant of his servants, write to you with the desire of see- 
ing you forgetting yourselves, seeking your only rest and 
peace in Jesus crucified, and hungering for the honour of 
God, for the salvation of souls, and the reformation of the 
holy Church. We see the Church at this day in such neces- 
sity, that, to succour her, it is necessary to quit our solitudes 
and give ourselves up to her service. For if we wish sin- 
cerely to do any good, we must not pause and say, 'I shall 
not find peace in doing this or that.' God has given us a 
good Pastor (Urban VL), who loves the servants of God, 
and gathers them around him. He is applying himself to 
combat vice and encourage virtue. He is not influenced 
by the fear of human judgment, and is acting as a just 
and courageous man. We ought to hasten to his aid, and 

She admonishes the Recluses. 263 

thus prove that we have really at heart the reformation 
of the Church. If you have this desire, brothers, you 
will obey the will of God and of his Vicar ; you will bid 
farewell to your solitude, and hasten to the field of 
battle. I entreat you, then, for the love of Jesus, to 
respond promptly and without hesitation to the request 
of the holy father. Do not be afraid of leaving your 
retreat. If you want woods, there are woods and retreats 
here also. Courage, then, dearly-loved sons ; do not 
sleep. It is time that we should awake out of sleep. I 
will say no more. I commend you to the holy benediction 
of God. — Rome, December 15, 1378." 

Friars William and Anthony appear to have had some 
little difference between themselves, arising out of the con- 
templation of the proposed journey to Rome. Catharine 
writes to William : " We ought not — if we do indeed love 
our neighbour, and care for men's souls — to think too much 
of our own spiritual consolations. We should give ear to 
the complaints and wishes of our neighbour, and especially 
be compassionate towards those who are bound with us in 
the same bonds of charity. If you fail to do this, you are 
greatly in fault. Yes, I wish that you should pity the 
troubles, and have regard to the wishes of our brother 
Anthony. I desire that you should not refuse to hear him, 
and I wish also and demand that he should listen to you. I 
conjure you, for Christ's sake and for mine, act thus, for 
thus you will maintain true charity. If you fail to do so, 
you will sow seeds of discord. I conclude, beseeching you 
to be as branches closely united with the true Vine, and 
transformed into the image of Christ crucified." 

She wrote to three friars of Spoleto — Friars Andrea, 

264 Caiharine of Siena. 

Paolo, and Lando, who willingly and with ardour obeyed 
the injunction of the Pontiff, and came to Rome. Another 
of her letters, conveying the sama invitation, was ad- 
dressed to Dom Bartolommeo dei Serafini, the prior of 
the monastery of Gorgon Island, to whose monks she had 
preached. He, and Father Matthew of the Misericordia 
of Siena, whom she had cured of his sickness, and many 
other good men, also responded to the invitation. She 
wrote to John of the Cell, who lost no time in leaving the 
delightful shades of Vallombrosa to hasten to Rome. The 
following is a portion of the letter she addressed to him : 
"Shall we be found asleep at the moment when our enemies 
are at the gate 1 No ! A great need is calling us, a great 
want is urging us, and love ought to wake us up. Have 
greater misfortunes ever befallen the Church than those 
which we see to-day 1 We ought to hasten to the support 
of the holy father, who is surrounded with so many trou- 
bles ; the more so as he invites with humility and kindness 
the help of the servants of God. He wishes to have such 
always about him. Reply, then, promptly to the Sovereign 
Pontiff, Urban VI. I conjure, you by the love of Jesus to 
fulfil without hesitation the will of God in this matter. 
You will now prove by the course you elect whether you 
truly love God and desire the reformation of the Church, or 
whether you are chiefly devoted to your own consolations. 
1 am convinced that if your self-love has been thoroughly 
consumed in the furnace of charitj', you will not hesitate 
to abandon your cell ; you will be content to inhabit the 
cell of self-knowledge, and be ready to give your life, if 
need be, for the truth. This is the moment for the servants 
of God to proclaim boldly the truth, and to suffer for it." 

The Hermit Saint. 265 

She also wrote to her old friend, who, at the time of her 
first acquaintance with him, was inhabiting a cave in a rock 
near Siena, and living the life of a hermit. He was never 
called by any other name than that of " the Saint." " He 
had led," says Raymond, "during more than thirty years a 
solitary life. He found, in his old age, the precious pearl 
of the gospel, in becoming acquainted with Catharine. For 
her, he quitted his peaceful cell and his accustomed manner 
of living, in order to labour, not for his own soul only, but 
fw the good of others. He affirmed that he thus found greater 
peace of mind and more profit to his soul than he had ever 
enjoyed in his solitude. Above all, he made great progress 
in patience. He suffered much from a disease of the heart, 
and Catharine taught him to support his continual anguish, 
not only with resignation, but with joy. He related to me 
several circumstances which transpired during my absence 
from Rome, and a short time after her death he went also to 
join her in the celestial mansions." 

The two friars of Lecceto having continued to express 
a great unwillingness to leave their retreat, she wrote to 
Anthony as follows : " My very dear son in Jesus Christ, 
I, Catharine, the servant of his servants, write to you in 
the strong desire to see you fully established upon that 
living rock, the holy Jesus, in such wise that the building 
which you raise may not be shaken by winds and storms. 
. . . This is a sifting time, one which shows us who are the 
true servants of God, and who are the self-seekers who love 
God only because of the consolation brought to their own 
souls. Such persons look around them and pronounce 
where spiritual comfort and consolation are to be found, 
and where they are not to be found ; they seem to imagine 

266 Catharine of Siena. 

that God is in this place, and not in that. It is not as they 
imagine ; for I perceive that, to the true servant of God, all 
places and all times are acceptable. When the time comes 
for him to leave his spiritual enjoyments, and undertake 
labour and fatigues for God, the true servant does not 
hesitate ; when the time comes for him to bid farewell to 
his solitude, he does it, like the glorious St. Anthony, who 
of a truth dearly loved solitude, but who left it in order to 
fortify his fellow Christians. Many other saints have done 
the same. The rule of the true saints has always been to 
come forward in times of necessity and misfortune ; but not 
in times of prosperity, for they fly such times. There is 
certainly no occasion to fly now, in the fear that too much 
prosperity would cause our hearts to be carried away with 
vain-glory and pride ; no one can find anything wherein to 
glory just-now except sufferings. It seems to me that we are 
wanting in light when we allow ourselves to be blinded to 
duty by the love of spiritual consolations : our motives may 
be good, but the eternal God alone can give us true and per- 
fect light. It seems, by the letter which Friar William has 
sent me, that neither he nor you are minded to come to 
Rome. I do not wish to reply to his letter, but I mourn 
from my heart over his simplicity, for he seeks little either 
the honour of God or the good of his neighbour. If through 
humility and the fear of losing peace of soul, he really fears 
to come, he ought to testify that humility by asking the 
Sovereign Pontiff to excuse him, and to allow him to re- 
main in his solitude .... It appears, according to what he 
writes to me, that two servants of God among j'ou have 
had a revelation made to them, by which they are taught 
that the Vicar of Christ and the person who counselled 

Letter to Fiiar Anthony of Nice. 267 

him on this matter, (she alludes here to herself) have followed 
a human and not a divine impulse, and that it is the devil 
and not God who is trying to draw these servants of Christ 
away from their settled peace and consolation. It is 
asserted that if you come here you will lose the habit of 
devotion, and that you could no longer give yourselves up 
to prayer. You must be very slightly established in 
devotion if a change of residence would cause you to lose 
the habit of prayer. It seems that God takes account of 
places then, and he is only to be found in woods and 
solitudes, even in times of public necessity ! Go to ! we 
began by declaring that we desired the reformation of the 
Church, and that foul weeds should be rooted out, and 
sweet flowers (which are the servants of God) should be 
planted in her : and now we pretend that to call these 
ser\'ants out of their peaceful solitudes in order that they 
•may save the bark of St. Peter from shipwreck, is an error 
inspired by the devil. It would be well that each man should 
speak for himself alone, and not for other servants of God. 
Friar Andrea of Lucca and Friar Paolo have not acted in 
this fashion. These great servants of God are aged and in 
weak health ; yet they have not made that an excuse for 
seeking repose, but started at once for Rome, in spite of the 
fatigue and difficulties of the journey. They obeyed, and 
have arrived, and although they would wish exceedingly to 
return to their cells, they do not attempt to shake off this 
obligation, but have willingly given up all the consolations 
of solitude. They have come, not to command, but to be 
made perfect through suffering, in the midst of troubles, 
tears, watchings, and continual prayers. This is the right 
course. Let us say no more about it ! May God in his 

268 Catharine of Siena. 

mercy purify us, and give us light, that we may not walk 
among shadows, I conjure you, the Bachelor, and the 
others to pray for me, that I may be guided in the path of 
humility. Dwell ever in the remembrance of God." 

I have given these letters at length becaiise of the in- 
terest which attaches to the views expressed in them by 
Catharine of the monastic life, a life held by her, in common 
with all mediaeval Christians, to be a holy life, if subor- 
dinated to the highest uses, but, as it appeared to her, a life 
to be abandoned, at the call of God, for an active and still 
holier life. 

The writer of the above letter we see to be the same who 
in her childhood made a brief trial of the life of the Fathers 
of the Desert, and was drawn away from it by the strong 
voice of affection within her, and the consciousness that there 
were those outside who thought of her, and needed her, and 
who would mourn her absence. She was grieved when she 
found that some of her friends did not fly to meet the call 
of duty and affection as quickly as she had done, when, after 
the day spent in the cave, she sped over the hills and 
through the city gates of Siena, to rejoin her parents, and 
brothers, and sisters. The following passage from the 
" Dialogue," ^ on the subject of prayer is dictated in the 
same spirit as the rebuke to the friars of Lecceto : " Perfect 
prayer, then, consists not in the multitude of words, but in 
the strength of the desire which raises the soul towards 
God. . . . Every Christian ought to contribute towards the 
salvation of souls, according as he is inspired by a holy desire. 
Everything which is said and done for the salvation of men 

1 Dialogue, IxvL, p. 168. 

Selfish Chmtians. 269 

is a continual prayer, but a prayer which does not exempt 
us from the use of mental and vocal prayer at certain times. 
All that is done for the love of God and of our neighbour, 
all, it may be added, which is done for ourselves also, with 
a just and right aim, may be called prayer, for those never 
cease to pray who never cease to do good. Love for our 
fellow-creatures is a constant prayer; but this very love will 
always incite us to actual prayer at stated seasons, and for 
prescribed times, and even far beyond those prescribed 
times, if the salvation of a soul, or any emergency in which 
we find ourselves demands it." 

. There are Christians enough assuredly, in our own days, 
to whom such arguments as Catharine used to the friars 
might be very suitably addressed ; Christians in whose 
hearts lies a deep, though it may be an unconscious and un- 
confessed selfishness. Their ears are dull to the daily cry 
of the needy and the oppressed, they do not hear the earnest 
call to join with God's advanced guard in the battle against 
vice and oppression and diabolic cruelty. The sacred seclu- 
sion of their homes is so sweet. They love so much their 
own secure and safe " retreat." And well it is they do so. 
Our secure and virtuous homes are the strength of the 
nation. It is well too that they should cherish their religi- 
ous privileges, and seek to maintain spiritual peace and con- 
solation in the uninterrupted enjoyment of those privileges. 
Yet a time will come when the possessors of these priceless 
treasures will have to give an account of their stewardship 
of such wealth. For an exceeding bitter cry is arising from 
creatures standing outside our doors, God's redeemed ones 
also, who have neither home nor hope on earth. Their cry 
rebukes our ease and our enjoyment, and our greediness of 

270 Catharine of Siena. 

our religious privileges. It seems at times prophetic of woe 
to those who dare to answer it with pious sophistries. 

Friar Anthony was not long in arriving in Rome. It is 
not clear whether Friar William ever did so. He died in the 
same year as Catharine, about fifteen months after this time. 
He was not idle, however, in the service of the Church. 
Baluze says that at Catharine's suggestion he wrote several 
letters to his countrymen the King of England and the 
Archbishop of Canterbury to secure their allegiance to 
Urban VL, and in this he was not unsuccessful. ^ 

Among the most eloquent of Catharine's letters is one 
which she wrote at this time to Ludwig, King of Hungary. 
He was a faithful adherent of the Roman Pontiff, and had 
been invested with the title of " Gonfalonier of the Church." 
Her letter to him is full of powerful pleading, her aim 
being to prove the validity of Urban's election, and to urge 
the King of Hungary to recognize the need of a reformation 
in the Church, and to give his support to those who were 
promoting that reformation. She wrote also to Charles 
Durazzo and other princes, in the same manner and with 
the same ends in view. 

We must follow Father Raymond a little way in his 
northern mission. He had scarcely left Rome before the 
Clementines made preparations to embarrass his move- 
ments and prevent the success of his embassy. They 
could not afford to allow the words of so ardent a disciple 
of Catharine and upholder of Urban to reach the ears of the 
King of France. Charles V. was now wavering as to the 
side he should espouse, and the arguments of Raymond 

i Baluze, '• Vit« Pup. Aveuiou," T. i., Col. 1085. 

Raymond fails to reach France. ' 271 

might deprive the schismatics of the support of France, 
without which they could not have continued to assert their 
existence. They promptly took steps, therefore, to prevent 
the nuncio from landing at Marseilles. Raymond continues 
the narrative of what took place after his parting from 
Catharine. '" Although the sea was infested by pirates, we 
arrived happily at Pisa, and had an equally prosperous 
voyage to Genoa, notwithstanding the numerous galleys of 
schismatics pursuing their way to Avignon. We journeyed 
by land from Genoa, and got as far as Ventimiglia. Here 
a monk of my Order, who was a native of that place, sent 
me a letter, in which he said, 'Beware of passing Venti- 
miglia, for treachery is prepared for you, from which, if you 
fall into the snare, no human aid can save you.' On this 
warning, having taken counsel with the companion whom 
the Sovereign PontiiF had appointed me, I returned to 
Genoa. Here I remained, by the order of the Pope, preach- 
ing a crusade against the schismatics." A second time, 
however, Raymond essayed to cross the frontier into France, 
and appears to have been this time forcibly prevented. 
On hearing of his having turned back the first time 
from Ventimiglia, Catharine wrote to him with some 
severity. She tells him that she could not have believed 
a full-grown man in Christ could act so. "Bad, dear 
father," she writes : " I thought you had cut your teeth, 
so that you could eat strong meat; but I see you are 
still a babe, only able to drink milk," She tells him 
he ought to have gone on, trusting in God, who was 
able to have delivered him out of the hands of assassins ; 
that, if he could not travel openly as a papal nuncio, 
he ought to have walked barefoot over the mountains, 

272 CatJmrine of Siena. 

disguised as a pilgrim, and begging his way, until he arrived 
in the presence of the King of France. She ardently 
desired now to go herself to Paris, but her failing health, 
and the importance of the events which were rapidly 
succeeding each other in Rome, made it impossible for her 
to realize this wish. She wrote, however, a long and 
powerful letter to Charles V., which was conveyed to him 
by the hand of a private messenger. She counsels him to 
consult the University of Paris on the subject of the schism.^ 
" You have at hand the fount of science," she reminds him, 
and expresses confidence in the justice of the verdict of the 
Sorbonne on the validity of Urban's election. The Uni- 
versity of Paris, (founded by Charlemagne in 791), was 
reputed at this time as " the mother and mistress of arts 
and learning." It included sixty-three colleges, the principal 
of these being the Sorbonne, which ultimately gave its 
name to the whole. It had acquired a great authority in 
the Church, its members having proved themselves above 
all considerations of party or of temporary interests, and 
able to give a wise and just judgment on controverted 
questions. This University had given its verdict at first 
strongly in favour of Urban. Charles V., however, leaned 
personally towards the Cardinal of Geneva, and the re- 
establishment of the Papacy at Avignon. He addressed an 
urgent letter to the University, which was read before the 
full assembly of learned doctors, urging them to consider 
how great a misfortune it would be if France were 
divided on this question. The sovereign, princes, and 
nobles, as well as the prelates of France, had unanimously 

' Letter 187. 

The Company of St. Geoi-ge. 273 

declared themselves for Clement, and these all now waited 
for the University of Paris to sanction and endorse their 
decision. Charles's letter was regarded almost as a com- 
mand. The University deliberated for several weeks, and 
in a general assembly at the end of that time, voted, by a 
considerable majority, in favour of Clement. The weightiest 
members of the Sorbonne, however, adhered to Urban, and 
a letter was addressed by the University to both the elected 
Popes, admonishing them to come to an agreement at once 
for the abdication of one or the other, in order to restore 
the Church to unity, under one head. 

The strong castle of St. Angelo at Eome still remained 
in the hands of the Clementines. Constant collisions 
took place between the Romans and the Breton and 
Gascon soldiers of the anti-Pope, who defended the 
castle. A brave knight of Romagna, Alberico di Bar- 
biano, attached to the cause of Urban, had formed at this 
time an army of Italians, whom he subjected to strict 
moral discipline, and inspired with a patriotic devotion. 
They invoked St. George as their patron saint. " This 
company of St. George," says Sismondi, " became the great 
school of the Italian militia ; it produced the distinguished 
generals of the succeeding century, and redeemed the mili- 
tary honour of Italy." " These brave troops," writes Cape- 
celatro, " were successful in driving out from our beautiful 
land the accursed Ultramontane invaders. Germans, 
Bretons, Gascons, and English, all fled before Alberico 
and his stem warriors." The soldiers of Clement had 
encamped at Marino, in the neighbourhood of Rome 
and their presence was a continual menace to the city. 
Clement daily sent messengers to the French army in 


274 Catharine of Siena. 

the castle of St. Angelo, and it became evident to the 
Romans that a concerted attack was meditated by the foe 
within and without the city. On the 29th of April the 
Romans, under Barbiano, made a furious attack upon the 
army of Clement, which yielded and finally took to flight. 
The castle of St. Angelo surrendered, after a day of despe- 
rate fighting, and the Romans were again masters of their 
own city. It was popularly believed that this great victory 
was due to the prayers of Catharine. " She lamented," says 
her biographers, " to see the Church reduced to such sore 
straits as to be obliged to resort to arms ; and she never 
ceased to supplicate God that these tribulations might cease." 
She wrote an address to Barbiano and his captains on the 
occasion of this victory, which Cartier justly calls a "noble 
and chivalrous harangue." She congratulates them on 
their victory, counsels humility, and beseeches them to 
direct their soldiers in the way of virtue, that they might 
never combat for anything but the truth, and might learn 
to become valiant soldiers of Jesus Christ. " Take for the 
base and principle of all your actions the honour of God. 
. . . In your character as chiefs give to your followers 
first the example of a true and holy fear of God. . . . 
I pray you also to take great care to surround yourselves 
with good and wise counsels, and to choose as officers, 
courageous, faithful, and conscientious men ; for good 
chiefs make good soldiers. . . . Acknowledge with 
gratitude, you and yours, the benefits you have received 
from God, and from the glorious knight of St. George, 
whose name you bear. May he defend you ! Pardon me if I 
have importuned you with words. Love for the Church 
and desire for your salvation urge me thus to write. As 

Surrender of the Castle of St. Angelo. 275 

for us, we do as Moses did ; when the people of Israel com- 
bated, Moses prayed, and so long as he prayed Israel 
prevailed. We do the same. Read this letter, if it please 
you, to all the captains." 

Catharine had spent the day of the battle in prayer, sus- 
tained by her companions of the community of Santa Chiara. 
She now added action to prayer. The French were still 
defending St. Angelo when the sun was about to set. 
Catharine went to the castle, and presented herself to 
RostagnOji y^Y^Q commanded it, and by her earnestness 
succeeded in inducing him to avoid further bloodshed, by 
surrendering, on the conditions proposed by the venerable 
Roman senator Giovanni Cenci, with whom she had pre- 
viously been in consultation. In a patriotic letter which she 
subsequently addressed to the gonfaloniers of the republic of 
Rome, she gently reproaches them for having left unacknow- 
ledged the solid and peaceful service rendered by Cenci : "I 
pray you show consideration towards those who have won 
for us this victory. Help them in their need ; above all, the 
poor wounded. Be kindly and pacific, so that you may 
retain their confidence. This is necessary, my dear brothers, 
in order that we be not guilty of ingratitude ; and also it is 
politic. It seems to me that you have acted a little ungrate- 
fully in respect to Giovanni Cenci. I know with what zeal 
and with what generosity of heart he laid aside every 
consideration except that of serving God and the republic, 
by saving us from the danger which continually threatened 
us from St. Angelo. He acted with great wisdom ; and 

1 Some of the chroniclers give the name of the governor of the 
castle as Guy de Provence. 

T 2 

276 Catharine of Siena. 

now not only has no acknowledgment been made of his 
services, but the vice of envy has arisen and stirred up 
various calumnies against him. It is an evil thing that you 
should act thus towards those who serve you. It is offen- 
sive to God and hurtful to yourselves ; for the city has need 
of wise, prudent, and conscientious men. For the love of 
Christ crucified, act no more in this fashion. . . I speak 
thus in your own interests, and not from any private feel- 
ing. You know very well that I am a stranger here. I 
speak for your own happiness, which with all my heart I 
desire. I trust that, as discreet and honourable men, you 
will accept the purity of the motives which urge me to 
address you, and will pardon my boldness." 

The victory of Marino was gained on the 29th of April, 
1379. The Roman soldiers coupled the names of "St. 
George and Catharine " in their songs of triumph, and in 
their mutual congratulations over the victory. Catharine 
was constantly seen in the city, and her presence increased 
for the moment the enthusiastic love and veneration felt 
for her by the people and by the army of St. George. 
Every morning she had, by their own desire, an audience 
with the magistrates of the city. She visited the wounded 
in the hospitals, and charged the sisters of her household to 
take care of their souls and bodies. 

The usual results of victory began to be manifested — 
a tendency to vainglory, self-gratulation, and insolence. 
" It was laid upon her heart to labour that the occasion of 
this victory should be so made use of as to confirm the 
Roman people in their allegiance to the true Pontiff, and 
still more to raise their thoughts towards God in ac- 
knowledgment that it is he who governs the universe 

Public Procession and Thanksgiving. 277 

and disposes events."^ She found Pope Urban very willing 
to listen to the proposal which she brought before him, for a 
public thanksgiving. It does not seem clear, indeed, whether 
Urban did not himself first propose it. Since his election 
to the papacy, he had been obliged to live in a house near 
the church of Santa Maria in Trastevere, it being impossible 
to pass along the road to the Vatican without insult and 
menace from the Clementine soldiers in possession of the 
Mole of Hadrian. It was now agreed that the Pontiff of 
Trastevere should go in solemn procession from Santa Maria 
in Trastevere to St. Peter's, taking up his abode hence- 
forward in the Vatican. But by the counsels and efforts of 
Catharine, the matter was so ordered that this event should 
not be a mere vain show, calculated to increase the pride of 
victory, but rather a humbling of themselves, on the part 
of the leaders and people, before God, in the confession of 
sin and in the invocation oi his presence and blessing. The 
ceremony was as follows. All the clergy of Eome, walking 
humbly and barefooted, preceded the Pontiff; then fol- 
lowed Urban, also barefooted, and with no outward show, or 
insignia of earthly rank. The whole of the people of 
Eome followed the Pontiff, " silently, in recollection and 
in prayer." The procession thus advanced towards St. 
Peter's, where, without the usual ecclesiastical pomp, it 
appears, the Pontiff offered up to God prayers and thanks- 
giving, with confession of sin ; and the crowd who followed 
him responded. The people were awed and impressed. 
The adherents of Clement had been at work for many 
weeks circulating calumnies against Urban, of a nature 

1 Capecelatro, Lib. ix. 

278 Catharine of Siena. 

to deprive him of the confidence of the Roman people ; 
hence it was esteemed a prudent measure on the part of 
the Pontiff to make himself thus one of the people, so to 
speak, in an unostentatious ceremonial, and to renew an act 
of humility which had been unheard of since Pope Stephen 
IV., in 769, went in solemn procession in like manner from 
the Church of St. John Lateran to St. Peter's. Catharine 
wrote, some days later, to Urban : " I rejoice from the 
depths of my heart, father, to have witnessed the good 
pleasure of God fulfilled in you by that act of humility, 
such as has not been seen for a very long time. The spirits 
of evil put forth all their efforts to mar it by some abuse 
from within or from without, but the holy angels restrained 
their malice." Fearing that the temper of the Pontiff 
would lead him into the habit of appealing to arms, and 
trusting in such defences, she adds : " God will act for you, 
and will give to you the needful wisdom and force to act in 
such a manner as to guide his bark with prudence. . . . 
Now it is his will that you should call around you the 
servants of God. . . . These, father, are the soldiers 
who will give you the true victory." 

The army of Clement had been completely routed at 
Marino. " The anti-Pope, almost demented with fear,"i 
saved himself by flight, and took refuge in the castle of 
Spelonica, whence he sent messengers to Queen Joanna 
to beg of her an armed escort to conduct him to Naples. 
The Queen not only sent him immediate succour, but 
prepared to receive him with great honours. When the 
galley of Clement reached the rock on which stood the 

1 "PenedemensfactusAntipapa." — Walsingham, in "Hist. Ang." 

The Enchanted Castle. 279 

romantic Castle dell' Uovo, the Queen and her Court, who 
were waiting for him, came forth to meet him. Joanna 
had commanded that a beautiful bridge should be con- 
structed, and thrown across from the rock to the galley, that 
Clement might land the more easily. She herself conducted 
him into the castle, which was festively adorned with ban- 
ners ; and having seated him on a throne prepared for him, 
she and her husband, the Duke of Brunswick, prostrated 
themselves at his feet and craved his pontifical benediction. 
A crowd of courtiers, ladies and young damsels, gorgeously 
and gaily attired, waited upon and did honour to him. 
Clement and his cardinals remained for several days in the 
enchanted castle,^ in the midst of feasting and convivialities 
alternated with luxurious repose. But at the very moment 
when these revelries were at their height, the predictions 
and warnings conveyed in Catharine's letters to the Queen 
began to be verified. The Neapolitans regarded with a 
sullen displeasure the favour shown by their sovereign to 
the pretender to the impacy, as they judged him, a man 
of foreign blood, and the opponent of a Pope who was a 
Neapolitan. They saw that the Schism was thus danger- 
ously encouraged, to the scandal of Christendom, and to 
the risk of the peace of Naples. The secret festivities of 
the castle, and the adoring prostrations in public, dis- 
gusted the people, who continued to nurse their ill- 
humour in silence, until an incident occurred which called 
forth its expression in full southern Italian fury. An 
artisan had uttered some too free and light words one 

^ Froissart records that the Castle dell' Uovo was believed to have 
sprung up in a single night, by magic. 

280 Catharine of Siena. 

(lay, concerning Queen Joanna and her guest, Clement VII. 
He was reproved by a noble called Andrea Ravignano ; but 
the artisan persisting in his remarks, Andrea rode his horse 
over him and pierced one of his eyes with his spear. This 
insult was sufficient to excite the Neapolitans, in heart 
strongly attached to Urban, to tumult and rebellion. A 
tailor called Brigante, nephew of the artisan whose eye 
had been put out, assembled a crowd of the lowest of the 
population, who armed themselves and raised the cry, 
" Viva Papa Urbano ! " In a few hours Naples was in revo- 
lution. The Archbishop of Naples, Bossuti, an Urbanite, 
who had lived in concealment since the Queen had declared 
herself the partisan of Clement, was conducted forth by the 
people and reinstated in his own palace, while the schisma- 
tic Bernardo, Avho had been elected in his place by Clement, 
was ignominiously driven forth from the city. Clement 
felt himself scarcely secure within the walls of the 
enchanted castle while such a tempest raged without. 
He once more fled and took refuge at Gaeta. Not many 
days later he re-entered his galley and set sail, with his 
cardinals, for the coast of France. A few weeks later ho 
had re-established himself, -with his Court, at Avignon. 
Thus the ill-advised Queen became indirectly the cause 
of the expulsion from Italy of the infamous Cardinal 
Eobert of Geneva, whom she had adored as Pope, and at 
the same time brought on a civil war in her own king- 
dom, which continued to be renewed at intervals until her 
own tragic death, already recorded. 

Catharine had gathered around her in Rome many of 
her friends, men and women, strong in the faith, and 
ready to do and to snfTer all things for the cause of God. 

Revolt in Rome. 281 

She had joined with them in the solemn public thanks- 
giving to God for recent benefits. " The holy Church and 
her Pontiff began to breathe a little, and Catharine of Siena 
•enjoyed at last some consolation in their peace." But this 
peace was of brief duration ; fresh and even graver causes 
of anxiety arose. Despite her unceasing efforts as a 
mediator and pacificator, Catharine observed, from day to 
day, that the people of Rome were increasingly disposed 
to find a cause of quarrel with Urban. The Pontiff's harsh- 
ness of manner and unbending character constantly tended 
to widen the breach. The Clementines, even after their 
■defeat, had continued secretly to spread reports injurious 
to Urban, and to undermine the loyalty of his subjects 
towards him. Several conspiracies against his life were 
discovered and thwarted. Catharine wrote to him, " I 
beseech you as much as possible to guard your person, in- 
asmuch as we must not tempt God by neglecting the pre- 
cautions suggested by prudence. I say this because I 
know that there are wicked men who are not asleep, and 
who are watching to lay traps for your life,"^ Disaffection 
■and threatened rebellion forced the Pontiff to remain almost 
a prisoner in the Vatican. Disorders prevailed in the city, 
and crimes of violence were daily perpetrated. Catharine 
gave herself continually to prayer. She wrote some ac- 
count to Raymond of the bitterness of that experience, 
and the travail of her soul over the misguided people, 
whom she loved and pitied too. She wrestled in prayer 
all night long for the Church and for the world, and for 
^'this poor people of Rome." She cried, in her anguish, 

^ Urban died by poison ten years after this time. 

282 CatJmrine of Siena. 

" Oh, Eternal God, take my life ! Eeceive this only sacri- 
fice which I can make. Take it, and let it be an offering 
for thy Church's sake. I have nothing else to give except 
that which thou didst give for me — life. suffer me to 
pour out my life for the reformation of thy Church ! " 
She pleaded, " Spare this people, Lord ! Let thy judg- 
ments fall on me, but have mercy on them." And her 
request was heard, for she did indeed offer up her life, in 
anguish and prayers, and tears and vigils, for the attain- 
ment of that which was the all-engrossing desire of her soul. 
While she prayed, her feeble frame was shaken as by a 
whirlwind. She said that "if the divine power had not 
encircled her members," she could not have continued to 
live and to pray ; she would have "fallen under her own 
weight." Night after night she maintained this conflict 
with the mighty Angel of the Covenant who wrestled with 
Jacob of old. "Yield to me now, for I am faint." "I will 
not let thee go except thou bless me." Thus she cried; 
and when she ceased, and the morning dawned upon her 
soul, there sounded in her heart the marvellous words, 
" As a prince hast thou had power with God, and hast pre- 
vailed." Whilst she was even thus praying, the noise of 
many feet was heard in the streets of the city. Secret 
conspiracy had failed ; now open rebellion was proclaimed. 
Urban could not, among his many faults, plead guilty to 
that of faint-hearted ness. He remained in the Vatican, 
making no preparations for defence. A tumultuous armed 
mob marched to St. Peter's. The cry was heard, " To the- 
Vatican ! " and, storming the doors, the crowd rushed in 
with vociferations and violent ^gestures. The foremost- 
amons: them were well-known assassins. The multitude 

The Eebels Overawed. 283 

outside pressed forward, so that in a moment the building 
was filled with the revolutionaries. Urban entered from 
the opposite side, holding aloft the cross. Attired in his 
pontifical robes, and with the triple mitre on his head, he 
ascended the papal throne, and sat silently facing the 
multitude, with a fearless, immovable countenance. The 
grandeur and composure of his mien, and the "sternness 
and solemn majesty of his countenance at this terrible 
moment," filled the rude multitude with amazement not 
immixed with admiration. They were awestruck ; they 
stood still and gazed at the Pontiff. He was alone and 
unarmed ; they counted their numbers by hundreds, and 
were armed with swords, clubs, and firebrands. " Urban 
smote them with the terrible majesty of his frown ;" while, 
in the words of Pope Boniface VIII. when similarly assailed, 
he asked, " Whom seek ye 1" At these words the assassins 
dropped their arms, and the people, smitten with a sudden 
sense of shame and fear, fled from the Vatican, and Urban 
was left alone. Catharine was outside in the midst of the 
crowd. For three days she laboured among the malcontents, 
showing herself an able mediator between the people and the 
Pontiff. " Her prayers, her presence, and her sweet and 
ardent eloquence did what could not have been done by 
armed force." In a few days peace and quietness were 
restored to the city; the people returned to their homes, 
and many testified a sincere sorrow for the violence of which 
they had been guilty. 

The bad news of the final verdict of the University of 
Paris had reached Rome. Catharine, disappointed at the 
failure of Raymond's attempted embassy to Charles V., 
presented a petition to Urban to bo permitted, even now 

284 Catharine of Siena. 

herself to go to Paris. Urban replied that her presence 
was essential in Eome, and that he was unwilling that she 
should go. Indeed, it may be truly said that Catharine 
ruled in Kome at this time. Her labours were almost super- 
human. Every morning she repaired to the Capitol, where 
the gonfaloniers of the republic awaited her. No measure 
of importance was adopted without her counsels. The 
interests of the Commonwealth seemed to depend upon her 
presence and activity. Urban bestowed upon her the fullest 
powers and authority to act for the good of the Church. 
Prominent citizens waited at her door every day for a brief 
interview, and for words of advice on matters of difficulty, 
private and public. The chiefs of the army sought her 
counsels, and the sick and the prisoners sighed for the re- 
turn of the day and hour which brought her to their bedside, 
or to their cell. Every day she went to St. Peter's to offer 
up her prayers for the people ; every evening she retired to 
her own room to pray and to intercede, through the long 
night. Her frame became daily more and more attenuated. 
The lamp of life was fast burning out. Her biographers tell 
us that " she walked the streets of Rome like one who had 
issued from the tomb," so emaciated was she. Her suffer- 
ings showed themselves outwardly to all eyes, but nothing 
that medical art could suggest gave her any relief. Day 
by day, that pale, slight, ghost-like figure was seen pas- 
sing through the streets, to the Capitol, to the Vatican, 
to St. Peter's and to the humbler people's quarters in 
Trastevere, intent on the Master's work, and unwearying 
in ministrations. She ruled in Rome. She ruled by the 
force of her prayers, and the power of Christian love. 
Those who passed her in the streets of the city, paused, 

Faithful unto Death. 285 

and crossed themselves. Love, and awe, and pity filled the 
heart of the beholder at the sight of her ever-ready smile 
of greeting, bright and cheerful and sweet as ever, while 
her wasted frame seemed only to be held together and 
borne up as by a miracle. " Her cruel sufferings increased 
daily, her skin adhered to her bones, and she was tor- 
mented with a continual thirst ; she walked, prayed, and 
worked without intermission ; but those who saw her would 
have believed her to be a phantom rather than a living 
being ; her body was visibly consumed, but her soul rose 
joyfully and courageously above all." 


Civil discord had ceased, for a time, in Eome, and quiet 
reigned in the city. Catharine, feeling that her bodily- 
strength was failing fast, addressed her last counsels to 
Urban, in the following letter, in which she urges upon 
him, besides the reformation of the Church, the exercise of 
self-control in his words and acts, and the faithful fulfil- 
ment of his promises (for Urban was held to be rash in 
promising, and sometimes inexact in the performance of 
his promise) : — " Most holy and beloved father in Christ, 
jour unworthy daughter Catharine writes to you in the 
ardent desire to see you following in the steps of the 
great St. Gregory, acting with prudence, guided by the 
sweet light of truth, and governing the Church and your 
people with such wisdom that nothing which you ordain 
may be called in question. I am aware, holy father, of 
the insolent and violent reply given by the prefect to the 
Roman ambassadors.^ A general meeting of the Council 
ought to be held concerning this matter, at which the 
chiefs of the quarters, and other distinguished citizens 
should be present. I pray you, father, to see these per- 

j This prefect was Francesco di Vico, Signor of Viterbo, an 
enemy of Urban, who on some occasion had insulted the Roman 
ambassadors sent to him in a conciliatory spirit. 

Her last Letters to Urban. 28T 

sons frequently, and to bind them to you with prudence, 
in bonds of affection and fidelity. I entreat also, that 
when the report is brought to you of the decision of the 
assembly, you will receive the messengers with all possible 
gentleness, explaining to them what to your Holiness 
seems most needful to be done. Pardon me if I say what 
I ought not to say ; but I desire that you should under- 
stand and consider well the character of your Roman 
subjects, who are far more easily won and held in alle- 
giance by gentleness than by harsh Avords, and force. . . . 
I humbly beseech you also to be very prudent in never 
promising anj'thing except what it is distinctly possible 
for you to fulfil, in order to avoid the shame, confusion, 
and evil which may result from the opposite course. 
Bear with me, kind father, when I say such things to you. 
I trust that your humility and your goodness will make 
you accept them without indignation or scorn, although 
they are spoken by so unworthy a woman. He who is 
really humble does not criticize the person who counsels, 
but thinks only of the truth and of the honour of God. 
Take courage, and do not be troubled about the effects of 
an insolent reply from this rebel (Francesco di Vico) ; God 
will overrule all, for he is the ruler and protector of the 
Church and of your Holiness. Be always calm, in a holy 
fear of God, always blameless in your words and in your 
conduct ... I pray you, moreover, to provide for the ad- 
justment of the affair of which Leon has spoken to you,^ 
for the scandal is continually augmenting, on account of 

1 Leon is supposed to have been a disciple of Catharine. There had 
been some diflference between the Pope and the ambassadors of Siena 
concerning the restitution to the Sienese of the fortress of Talamone, 
and other matter8,induced in part by the roughness of Urban's temper. 

288 Catharine of Siena. 

the treatment which the ambassador of Siena met with, 
and other things which daily keep alive anger and irrita- 
tion in the feeble hearts of men. You have no need of 
such a spirit now; you need men who will be peaceable 
and not combative. Even admitting that all was done 
from a praiseworthy zeal, and that it can be justified, yet 
there are people who act with such haste and anger that 
their manner at least cannot be justified. I pray your 
Holiness, then, to make allowance for human infirmity ; for 
I Avarn you that if some remedy be not applied, the sore 
will deepen. Recall to your mind the ruin caused through- 
out the whole of Italy, through the delay in deposing 
wicked governors who destroy the Church of God. I 
know that you are not ignorant of this. Let your Holi- 
ness see then what is right to be done. I humbly ask your 
benediction," This is the last letter which she addressed 
to the Pontiff. In a previous one she had pleaded again 
and again, and at greater length, for the reformation for 
which she continually laboured. " When we live for the 
honour of God," she wrote, " without thinking of self, we 
receive light, power, constancy, and a supernatural per- 
severance, through which we never fail, but continue with 
courage to do our duty. I have prayed, and I pray con- 
tinually to the Eternal Father, to bestow this constancy 
upon you, father, and upon all faithful Christians, for in our 
present circumstances we have an extreme need for it. For 
myself, I will never cease to work, so long as God gives 
me the grace. I wish to give my life for you and the 
Church, in tears and watchings, and in humble, persever- 
ing prayer. God will enable me to do it, for of myself I 
can do nothing; and I know that humble, persevering, 

Last Letters to Friends. 289 

and believing prayer, provided its demands are just, is 
never refused." 

The following extracts from the last letters which 
Catharine wrote to Father Raymond, as well as the last to 
Stephen Maconi, who, on account of personal and family 
affairs had remained in Siena, are more especially interest- 
ing, because, in addition to the Christian fervour which 
pervades them, and the useful counsels which they contain 
in common with her other letters, they manifest the yearn- 
ing tenderness of the mother about to leave her beloved 
family, and the solicitude of the faithful friend, mindful 
not only of the spiritual needs, but of all the smaller and 
temporal concerns of those with whom she has walked 
life's pilgrimage, and to whom she believes she is shortly to- 
speak her last adieu. For the nearer the soul approaches, 
to the divine and eternal source of love, the more fully do 
the obligations of sacred human love reveal themselves, 
and the more keen is the self-reproach for the neglect even 
of the smallest of these. Those who have loved the most, 
and with the greatest fidelity, have ever been the first to 
confess in the moment of death, " I have not loved enough! 
in many things I have been unfaithful to love." 

"My dear Father in Jesus Christ, — Catharine, the 
servant of his servants, writes to you in the desire of 
seeing you a pillar of the Church, and ever led forward 
on the right path, by the light which reveals to us the 
truth. It seems to me, according to what I understand 
from your letter, that you have been subject to many in- 
ternal conflicts by the snares of the evil one and through your 
own weakness. It has seemed to you that the burden laid 
upon you was beyond your strength, and you have thought 


290 Catharine of Siena. 

that I have judged you by too high a standard of my own. 
You have thought also that my affection for you had 
diminished ; but you are mistaken ; and by what you 
have written you have proved rather that charity in me 
is augmented, and in yourself has diminished. I love you 
as I love myself ; and I have hoped that the goodness of 
God would also make your affection perfect ; but it has 
not been so, for you have been looking about to see 
whether you could cast off from you the burden which op- 
pressed you, and have fallen back into weakness and unfaith- 
fulness. I have seen this very clearly ; and 1 wish that I 
had been the only one who remarked it. In pointing it 
out to you, have I not proved to you that my affection 
has increased instead of diminishing 1 But how is it that 
you have entertained the very least of these fears ? 
How is it that you can ever have believed that I desire 
any other thing than the life of your soul 1 AVhere is the 
faith and the confidence which you ought always to 
possess 1 What has become of that assurance which you 
once had that all which happens to us is allowed and decided 
by God, not only in great events, but in the smallest cir- 
cumstances ] If you had remained faithful, father, you 
would not now have been vacillating and fearful before 
God and towards me, but, as an obedient and zealous 
son, you would have gone forward ! If you had not 
been able to walk upright, j^ou would have crept upon 
your hands and knees ! If you had not been able to travel 
as a papal messenger, you woidd have travelled as a 
pilgrim ! If you had had no money, you would have begged ! 
Such boldness and obedience would have advanced our 
cause before God and in the hearts of man more than all 

Last Letters to Friends. 291 

worldly prudence and all human precaution. It is through 
my own shortcomings that I now fail to see this perfec- 
tion in you. I know very well, however, that, although 
you have shown weakness, you are always possessed with 
a direct and holy desire to fulfil the will of God. I had, 
however, greatly wished that 3'ou had not stopped on your 
way, but that you had pursued your enemy to the death. 
For myself, I was at that time occupied night and day 
with the things of God, and with many affairs which have 
not succeeded on account of the want of zeal in those who 
undeitook them, and, above all, through my own sins and 
imperfections. Alas ! we see around us offences increasing 
and inundating us ! In the kingdom of Naples we see the 
last state of things to be worse than the first ! I shall 
have much to tell you on all these matters, unless, indeed, 
before I see you again I shall have received the favour of 
leaving this life. Yes, yes ! I do assure you that I would 
have given all the world for you to have continued on your 
route ! I will not, however, vex myself about it, because 
I am persuaded that nothing happens without some secret 
purpose of God. My conscience is at rest, for I have 
done all I could to further this embassy to the King 
of France, May the Holy Spirit accomplish that which 
we bad workers have failed to accomplish. 

" As for the embassy to the King of Hungary, it a{>- 
peared to be very acceptable to the Sovereign Pontiff, 
and he had decided that you and your companions should 
be charged to undertake it. I do not know what has 
caused him to cliange his mind. He now wishes that you 
should remain where you are, and do all the good you 
possibly can. I beseech you, put away all uneasiness. 


292 Catharine of Siena. 

"Devote yourself wholly to God, my father. Do not 
reckon too much on spiritual consolations. Hope and pray 
continually for these dead and dying, that the hand of 
Eternal Justice may be held back by our continual prayer. 
If you thus act, nothing will ever seem to you impossible, 
nor will you calculate concerning the difficulties or the 
results of what you undertake ; but you will see, by the 
light of faith, that in Christ Jesus, and in him crucified, all 
things are possible, and that God never lays upon us any 
burden which is beyond our strength. I tell you, dearest 
father, that, whether we will it or not, the times in which 
we live invite us to die for the world. Let us willingly 
give ourselves as a sacrifice. . . . You ask me to entreat of 
the Divine Goodness that you may be filled with the ardour 
of St. Vincent, of St. Lawrence, of the great St. Paul, and 
of the beloved Disciple, and you tell me that you will then 
do great things, which will cause me to rejoice. I thank 
God for this ; for without this ardour you will do nothing, 
either great things or little, and you will not be my joy and 
crown. It is in thinking so much of these things that I 
could wish that you were near me, in order that I could 
have shown you better all I desire to say. In being faithful 
you will do great things for God, and will bring to a happy 
conclusion the business which he confides to your care ; or, 
if it does not succeed perfectly, it will not be your fault. 

" You write to me that the Schismatics are seeking 
daily to arrest you : but you cannot doubt that God is 
strong enough to remove from them the power of ac- 
complishing this desire. You ought also to consider, 
father, that you are not yet worthy of the great happi- 
ness of martyrdom, and you should consequently be 

Letters to Baymond. 293 

without fear. Take care that that does not happen to you 
which happened to the Abbot of St. Antimius. Through 
fear, and under the excuse of not tempting providence, he 
fled from Siena to Rome, believing he should thus escape 
imprisonment and be safe ; but he was put in prison here, 
and he has suflfered that which you know. Thus are 
pusillanimous hearts deceived. Be courageous, then, and 
face death. I ask your blessing." 

" My dear father in Christ, — I write to you again, in the 
desire that no adversity and no persecution may turn you 
aside. Think of those glorious workers who have sacri- 
ficed their lives, and have watered the soil of the Church 
with their blood. Take example from them, that I may 
no more see you timid, and fearing your own shadow, but 
a valiant soldier of the Lord. Oh, my father, I wish that 
I could reveal to you the great mysteries of God which 
I have seen ! I will speak of them as briefly as I can, 
and in so far as human language will permit. I also will 
tell you what I wish you to do after my death. But do 
not be sorrowful on account of what I say, for I know 
not whether the Divine Goodness will recall me now, or 
leave me longer on earth. My father, God has shown 
me great things, which it is impossible for me to describe." 
[She then speaks of the Sunday of Sexagesima, on which 
she met with an accident which occasioned much suffering 
to the last hour of her life.] " I do not understand how I 
could ever get over such an accident. The pain in my 
heart was so great that my garment was torn by it. I fell, 
and remained in the chapel in great agony. On Monday 
evening I felt pressed in spirit to write to the Sovereign 
Pontiff" and to three cardinals. My friends supported me, 

294 CatJiarine of Siena. 

and I went to my cell ; but when I had finished the letter 
to the Pontiff it became impossible for me to write another 
word, so great was the agony which I suffered. A little 
while afterwards a terrible spiritual conflict was permitted 
— an attack of the enemy of souls which almost overcame 
me. It seemed as if he were furious against me, as if he 
conceived that it had been I, who am but a frail vessel of 
clay, who had torn from his grasp that of which he has 
for so long a time retained possession in the holy Church. 
The terror of soul which was then added to my bodily 
sufferings was such that I felt impelled to fly from my cell, 
which I did, and went to the chapel, as if my cell had been 
the cause of my sufferings." [She then tells Raymond 
how she fell again and again, fainting, and at last, unable 
to speak or to move, she lay as if dead, but with her spiri- 
tual vision clear, and her powers of mind in full activity.] 
" My memory recalled all the circumstances and needs of 
the Church and of all Christian people. I was admitted 
to the presence of God. I cried to him in his presence, 
and with great confidence, taking the kingdom of heaven 
by violence, and offering up to him as my plea the blood 
of the Lamb and all the sufferings which he endured. It 
was permitted to me to plead with such urgency that I 
could no longer doubt that he granted my request. I 
then prayed for you all, beseeching him to accomplish in 
you his will and my own ardent desires. Last, I prayed 
for myself, that he would save me from eternal death. 
Thus I remained so long a time that our community 
wept for me as if I were dead. The spiritual terror was 
gone, and the Lord Jesus drew near to me, promising to 
receive my prayers and grant me my desires, and accept- 

She contends against weakness. 295 

ing the offering which I had made of my poor life as a 
sacrifice to his Church. Then he who is the Truth showed 
me things which it is not possible to express in words. I 
began to recover." [But again and again the spiritual 
terror and conflict returned, such as it passes the imagina- 
tion to conceive of, and she vainly attempts to speak of it.] 
" Two days and two nights passed in these fierce tempests, 
but the aim and desire of my soul changed not ; it re- 
mained united' to the object of its affection, while my body 
seemed reduced to nothing I can take no nourish- 
ment, not even a drop of water ; my life holds by a thread ; 
and now I know not what the Divine Goodness wills to do 
with me. He will fix a term to my miseries and anguish, 
and cause them to cease, or he will, through ordinary means, 
restore health to my body. I pray him only to accomplish 
his Avill in me, and not to leave you orphans — you and the 
others — but to direct you ever in the way of the truth. I 
am persuaded he will do so. 

*' I was able to set myself again to toil for the tempest- 
tossed vessel of the Church, I went to St. Peter's. I did 
not wish to leave the place, night or day, until I saw 
the people who were in revolt, again at peace with the 
Sovereign Pontiff." i After some general counsels, she 
adds : " I would ask of you also to gather together the 
books and the other writings of mine which you will find — 
you and Friar Bartholomew, Friar Thomas Caffarini and 
the Master, (Giovanni Tantucci) — and to do with them 

^ This refers to the occasion when the populace, who had entered 
the Vatican, retired in awe before Urban. The sudden calm, and 
suppression of the revolt were attributed by all to the efforts and 
prayers of Catharine. 

296 Catharine of Siena. 

whatever seems to you most useful and for the honour of 
God. I confide to you also this my poor family, that you 
may be to them, as much as you can, a pastor and father. 
Hold them together in the bonds of mutual charity, that 

they be not scattered as sheep having no shepherd 

Pardon me if I have ever written anything to give you pain. 
I never wish to give you pain, but I wish to have fulfilled 
my duty, for I know not what God wills to do with me. 
Do not be grieved because we are separated ; your presence 
would certainly have been a great consolation to me, but I 
have a still greater consolation, a still higher joy — that of 
seeing the good you are doing in the Church ; and I pray 
you to work ever with a yet greater zeal, and never to yield 
before any persecutions. May you ever rest in the blessing 
of Christ Jesus. — Catharine. Rome, March, 1380." 

" To Stephen di Corrado Maconi. Rome, January, 1380, 
— My very dear son in Christ Jesus, — I, Catharine, write 
to thee in the desire of seeing thee a mirror of all virtue, 
by the example of thy life, the teaching of thy words, and 
thy humble and continual prayers ; that so thou mayest 
become an instrument in the hands of God to bring souls 
to Christ. Oh, how great is the strength we derive from 
prayer offered up in solitude and in self-knowledge ! . . . . 
Yesterday I received one of your letters, to which I reply 
in a few words. As for the favours I had promised you, I 
reply that you must never expect any more services from 
me unless you come yourself to claim them. I do not say 
that I shall ever refuse to help you in all your spiritual 
wants ; for never have I more earnestly wished than now 
to instruct you in the things which God puts into my 
heart; and perhaps you never needed them more than 

Last Letter to Stephen. 297 

now. You say that you are dissatisfied with your state of 
mind. When you are thoroughly so, I perceive that you 
will leave it for a better state. I hope that, as you have 
begun to remove the veil from your eyes, you will soon be 
able to take it away entirely. In reply to what you tell 
me of Master Matthew, I am exceedingly grieved for the 
trouble and annoyance which he has had on account of 
my negligence and ignorance. (Ask him to send me again 
a note of what it is which he requires, for I had indeed 
forgotten it.) I will do all I possibly can to remove the 
effect of m}' carelessness. Tell him that his trouble is still 
more my own. If this letter, &c. Have patience with me, 
&c. . . . ^ I have received a letter from the Abbot, who 
speaks of some new members of his community, among 
whom he hopes to reckon you. It is a great joy to me 
to see that you wish to advance in the religious life, but 
I am surprised that you should have made any engage- 
ment of this kind without letting us know. There is 
some mystery about it. I pray God that he will do with 
you what is most for his honour and for the good of your 
soul. I have much to say to you, but I cannot and will 
not write more. Neri is at Naples, where he has been 
well received by the Abbot Lisolo. He would have 
written to you, but he has been sick and nigh to death. 
Encourage all my children, and, above all, Peter. Recall 
me to him ; and, in doing so, tell him from me that God 
loves few words and many good deeds. I do not, however, 

1 It is evident that tiiis letter was written in great suffering. 
There are breaks and unfinished sentences. The writer begs 
Stephen to have patience with her, and apologizes for having lost 
or forgotten, in her extreme failure of health, some letter written 
to her. 

298 CatJiarine of Siena. 

impose silence upon him, and I do not forbid him to speak 
or to write to me, if it will be a consolation to him to do so. 
Indeed, I have sometimes been surprised that he has not 
written. Lisa and all our family commend themselves to 
you. There are here enclosed other letters, sealed. Give 
them in this state to Mistress Catharine di Giovanni ; she 
will distribute them. Dwell ever in the remembrance of 
the Holy Jesus." 

Most of Catharine's published prayers bear the date of 
the years 1379-80, and were written at Rome. They are 
full of affection and of longings for the salvation of all. In 
general she begins with the larger requests, for blessing on 
all mankind ; next she prays for the Church ; and finally 
concludes with a petition for her dear and intimate friends : 
" Eternal Love, I commend to thee, with all the strength 
of my desires, those whom thou hast given me to love. 
Thou didst confide them to me in order that I might con- 
tinually awaken and revive them ; and yet I have slept. 
Do thou thyself revive them, gracious Father and God, so 
that their eyes may be ever fixed on thee. I have sinned, 
Saviour, I have sinned. Have pity on me. Lord, make 
haste to help me. Amen." 

" Ineffable Love, how royally do those advance who 
have no will except thy will. Those also learn with ease 
thy doctrine. 0, Eternal Saviour, what is thy doctrine, 
and by what way shall we approach the Father ? I know 
of no other way save that which thou hast traced with thy 
precious blood, and which thou revealest by the light of 
thy ardent love. This day, then, I implore thy mercy, 
that I may have the grace to follow thy teaching with sim- 
plicity of heart. . . . (She speaks, in her prayer, of the 

Prayers at Rome. 299 

many and varied means by which the Father draws 
erring souls to himself.) " Thy mercy, Lord, has shown 
to me — me most unworthy and sinful — that we must 
not judge our reasonable fellow-creatures, whom thou 
leadest by ways so many and so different. Jesus crucified 
is the one way ; yet hast thou many means by which 
thou guidest sinners into this way. I give thanks to thee 
for this." 

" Lord God, I offer my life to thee, now and for ever. 
Use it for thy glory, I supplicate thee, Christ, by the 
merits of thy Passion, to purify thy Church from all its vile- 
ness, and to cut away the dead branches from the living 
vine. Delay not, my Lord, I beseech thee. I know that 
thou canst, by thy power, slowly and gradually correct the 
deformed branches and re-plant thy vine ; yet make haste, 
Lord ; make no long tarrying, my God. Since thou 
hast power to create all things out of nothing, it is easy for 
thee to make use of that which already exists, in extirpat- 
ing evil. I commend to thee my children, those whom 
thou hast committed to my affection and particular care. 
that they may be enlightened by thy bright rays, that they 
may be purified from their sins and become active labourers 
in the field which thou hast assigned to them. Rebuke and 
visit upon me, Lord, their eiTors and their weakness, for 
it is I who am answerable for them. I have sinned. Lord ; 
have mei'cy on me." 

The following is the last prayer which she recorded in 
writing. Eome, February, 1380: — 

" Eternal God and Master, who didst form the vessel of 
the body out of the dust of the earth ; who didst create the 
body so humble a thing, and then fill it with so great a 

300 Catharine of Siena. 

treasure — the soul, made in thine own image, Eternal. 
Thou, Lord, art the Great Master who canst create and re- 
create, who canst break and bring to nought this fragile vase 
as thou wilt. Father, I offer again to thee myself — my 

life for thy Church I commend to thee thy Church. 

Eternal God, I commend to thee also my beloved children, 
and if it be thy merciful will to take me away from earth, I 
pray thee leave them not orphaned and comfortless ; but 
visit them by thy grace, and make them to live in the per- 
fect light. Unite them to each other in the bonds of love. 
I beseech thee. Lord, that none of them may be lost ; that I 
may not be robbed of any one of them. Forgive my sins, 
my ignorance, and my negligence towards them, inasmuch 
as I have not done all that I could and ought to have done 
for them. I have sinned. Saviour ; have pity on me. I 
offer to thee, and cast upon thee my loved ones, for they are 
my own soul. If it be thy will, for their sakes, to let me re- 
main in the body. Physician Supreme, then heal this body ; 
repair it ; for it is all broken to pieces. Grant us. Eternal 
Father, O grant us thy heavenly benediction. Amen." 

It is from the young Secretary, Barduccio, that we have 
the account of Catharine's last days. The following letter 
to his sister, containing that account, is given in a con- 
densed form as to certain portions of it, and in the precise 
words used by him in those parts of the narrative with 
which we are most concerned. 

Letter of Sgr. Barduccio di Canigiani to his sister, Maria 
Petriboni, at the Convent of San Pietro di Monticelli, near 

Florence: — In the name of Jesus Christ I received 

your letter, and communicated its contents to my afflicted 
friends. They thank you from the depths of their hearts. 

Bardwcio's record of her last Days. 301 

You desire to become acquainted with the details of the last 
days of blessed Catharine. I can but very inadequately 
perform the duty you require of me. I will, however, 
relate what my eyes witnessed, and what my poor soul was 
able to comprehend. From the first days of January, 1380, 
a great change was perceived in her. She conceived a 
kind of horror of all nourishment ; she could not even drink 
a single drop of water to quench her burning thirst, though 
her throat was continually so parched that she felt as if she 
was breathing fire. Her life appeared to hang by a thread. 
Nevertheless she seemed to be sustained by a secret, 
ineffable joy, and continued to be as active and gay as 
usual until about the 6th of March. On Sexagesima 
Sunday, at the hour of vespers, she met with an accident 
so grave that from that moment she never recovered her 
wonted health, nor was ever free from pain." [The nature 
of the accident referred to here, and in Catharine's letter 
to Eaymond, can only be guessed. There are allusions to 
her having fallen upon the steps of St. Peter's, when enter- 
ing the church to pray. It is not improbable that, after a 
day of unusual fatigue, she may have fainted at the portal, 
or, striking her foot on some obstacle, her weakness may 
have caused her to fall upon the hard pavement, thus 
giving some wrench to the muscles and nerves, which 
would account in part for the terrible sufferings of the 
weeks which followed.] "She was carried home," con- 
tinues Barduccio. "She suffered much that night and 
the following Monday, when towards evening she revived 
a little. That night, while dictating a letter to me, she 
had so violent a crisis that we mourned her as dead. She 
fainted, and remained a long time without any signs of 

302 Catliarine of Siena. 

life. Yet afterwards she arose, and appeared unchanged 
and cheerful as ever. From that Sunday, however, new and 
extraordinary bodily sufferings afflicted her. During Lent, 
every morning after communion, her companions were 
obliged to raise her from the floor, and carry her to bed as 
if she were dead. Yet in the evening of each day she would 
revive, and arise and walk to St. Peter's, a mile distant ; 
and having remained for vespers, she would return quite 
exhausted. Thus she continued until the third Sunday in 
Lent. She then bowed beneath the weight of sufferings 
which overwhelmed her, and the anguish which rent her 
soul in view of the sins which were daily committed against 
God, and of the perils and evils of the Church. She was 
consumed by pain, physical and mental. In the midst of 
this martyrdom, she said, ' These pains are physical, but they 
are not natural. God allows the evil one to torment me thus.' 
We believed that what she thus said was indeed the fact, 
for her sufferings were inconceivable. It is not possible to 
give you any idea of her patience. I will merely say that 
at each renewal of the torture she joyfully raised her eyes 
and hands to God, saying, ' Thanks be to thee, ever- 
living Spouse of my soul, who dost continually crown 
thy poor handmaid with these new proofs of thy favour.' " 
Here a portion of the deposition already cited of Friar 
Bartholomew of Siena may with advantage be inserted. 
This Bartholomew was the friend of her youth, who said, 
" When I first made her acquaintance she was young, and 
always wore a smiling countenance; I was also young, 
but I never experienced any trouble in her society." 
"When she was attacked by her last illness," he writes, 
"I was prior of a convent of Siena. The Provincial of 

Last Days. 303 

my Order sent me on business to Rome. On my arrival 
there I hastened to her residence, being utterly ignorant of 
her state. I found her extended on planks, surrounded on 
every side by other planks, so that she seemed to be in a 
coffin. She was so emaciated that her bones could be easily 
counted. She appeared withered, and her face worn and 
sunk, and it no longer presented the same beauty as for- 
merly. The sight broke my heart, and I asked her, amidst 
my tears, ' Mother, how is it with you 1 ' When she recog- 
nized me, she was anxious to testify her joy, but she could 
not speak. I placed my ear close to her mouth, to be able 
to hear her reply; she said, 'All is well, thanks to our 
beloved Saviour.' I then told her of the motive of my 
journey, and said to her, ' To-morrow will be the Passover 
of our Lord, and I should like to celebrate it here, so as to 
give the Eucharist to you and your spiritual children.' She 
replied, 'Oh, would that our dear Saviour would permit me 
to partake of it ! ' I left her, and on the following day I 
returned to fulfil my promise. No one hoped to see her 
able to go to Communion, for she had been for some days 
incapable of making any movement. As we were preparingj 
however, she arose suddenly, to the great joy of all, and 
advanced towards the altar, where she remained till the con- 
clusion. She was then carried back by the sisters to her 
bed, where she lay motionless as before. I was, however, 
permitted daily to converse with her during the few days I 
remained in Rome. She prayed with unabated ardour for 
the reformation and peace of the Church. 'Be assured,' 
she said, 'if I die' (and this she repeated to many others 
around her), ' the cause of my death is the zeal which 
burns and consumes me for the Church. I suffer gladly, 

304 Catharine of Siena. 

and am ready to die for her, if need be.' The business 
which brought me to Rome was concluded, but I con- 
stantly resisted when pressed to return to Siena. I told 
this to Catharine, and she said I must go back. ' How 
can I go, and leave you in this extremity ? ' I asked ; ' if 
I were far away, and were told of your condition, I would 
leave all and make haste to come to you. No, I cannot 
go without seeing you somewhat recovered, or at least 
without having some better hope of your recovery.' 
Catharine said, * My son, you know very well what a con- 
solation it is to me to see the faces of those whom God 
has given me, and whom I love in the truth. It would 
be a great happiness to me if God would grant me Father 
Raymond's presence as well as yours ; but it is not his 
intention to grant me this ; and I desire not my will, but 
his. You must go. You know that at Cologne there 
will soon be a Chapter of your Order for the election of 
a General Master. Father Raymond will be nominated ; 
I wish you to be there with him, and to be obedient and 
useful to him. I command you this, as far as I have 
power.' I assured her that I would do whatever she com- 
manded, but added, 'If it is God's will that I go, ask him to 
give you better health before my departure.' She promised 
me to do so, and when I returned on the following day, I 
found her so calm and cheerful, that I drew near to her, full 
of hope. She, who had hitherto- remained so immovable, 
now stretched her arms towards me and embraced me so 
aflFectionatcly that I could not help shedding tears of joy. 
She then exhorted me to depart in peace. I left Rome. 
A short time after I had returned to Siena, a letter in- 
formed me that Catharine had quitted this life." 

Last Days. 305 

Barduccio thus proceeds : " She continued to be thus con- 
sumed by suffering until the Sunday before Ascension Day. 
Her body was then reduced to the state in which painters 
represent death ; her limbs seemed to be those of a mere 
skeleton covered with a transparent skin. Her strength was 
so annihilated that she could not turn herself from one side 
to the other. Her countenance however was beaming with 
joy and angelic devotion. On Saturday night, about two 
hours before dawn, she became so much worse that we 
believed she was on the verge of her last moments. She 
then called all her family and friends around her. . . She 
was reclining on the shoulder of Alessia ; she tried to rise, 
and with a little help remained in a sitting posture, though 
still supported by Alessia. Someone had placed before her 
a little table on which were some relics of saints, but she 
did not look at them. Her gaze was fixed upon the Cross. 
Then she accused herself, before him who died there, of all 
her sins. ' Yes, I have sinned, Eternal, I have miserably 
offended thee by my negligence and ignorance and ingrati- 
tude. Thou didst command me to seek thee in all things, 
and to labour continually for thy honour and the good of 
man; but I have avoided fatigue and labour-. . . I have 
sought my own consolation . . . Alas ! thou didst charge 
me with the care of souls, thou didst give me children whom 
I was bound to love in a special manner, and lead them 
to thee in the way of life. I have been weak towards 
them. I have failed in solicitude for their interests ; I have 
not succoured them as I ought by continual prayer or by 
giving them a holy example and wise counsels. Ah me ! 
with how little respect have I received all thy benefits, 
and the charge thou didst commit to me ; I did not gather 


306 Catharine of Siena. 

them with that desire and love which thou didst feel in 
sending them to me. Thou, Lord, didst, in thine infinite 
goodness, choose me in my tender infancy for thy spouse ; 
but I have not been faithful enough to thee ; my memory 
has not always been filled with thee, and with thy countless 
benefits ; my understanding has not been solely directed to 
comprehend thee, and my will has not been bent towards 
loving thee with all my soul and strength.' 

" After this, she asked pardon of us all. ' My beloved,' 
she said, 'I have indeed hungered and thirsted for your 
salvation. I dare not say the contrary. Nevertheless, I 
may have been wanting to you in many things ; not only 
have I not set before you the highest example, but in regard 
to all your temporal wants, I have not been so faithful and 
attentive as I ought to have been. I therefore implore of 
you all, in general, pardon and indulgence, and I ask this 
also of each one of 3^ou in particular. I entreat you most 
humbly and earnestly to pursue to the end the path of virtue, 
that you may be, as I have told you before, my joy and my 
crown.' The grief which inundated my soul, (continues 
Barduccio), as she spoke these words, hindered me from 
hearing all she said ; her voice, moreover, was feeble, and 
her sufferings so keen that she pronounced her words with 
great pain and difficulty. She then addressed a few words 
to Lucio, then to another, and to myself." 

St. Antoninus adds to this : " Catharine, finding her end 
approaching, pronounced a discourse to her spiritual sons 
and daughters, exhorting them to brotherly love, and 
giving them also certain rules for advancing in the way 
of the Lord. And, first (she told them), that anj'one who 
desired to be truly the servant of God, and wished really 

Last Days. 307 

to possess him, must strip his heart of all selfish love of 
human creatures, and with a simple and entire heart must 
approach God. Secondly, that no soul can arrive at such a 
state without the medium of prayer, founded on humility ; 
that no one should have any confidence in his own works, 
but acknowledging himself to be nothing, should commit 
himself entirely to the keeping and leading of God. She 
asserted that through prayer all virtues progress and are 
invigorated, whilst without it they are weakened. Thirdly, 
that in order to attain to purity of conscience, it is necessary 
to abstain from all rash judgments and evil speaking against 
our neighbours ; that we must neither condemn nor despise 
any creature, even if it be the case of one whom we know 
to be guilty and vile, but to bear with him, and pray for 
him, because there is no one, however sinful, who may not 
amend his life. Fourthly, that we must exercise a perfect 
trust in the providence of God, knowing that all things that 
happen to us, through his divine providence, spring, not 
from his ill will to his creatures, but from his infinite love 
for them." 

Catharine had just ceased speaking, Avhen Stephen 
entered the room. He had been detained at Siena. One 
evening, he narrates, as he was praying in the Oratory of 
the Hospice della Scala, he heard a voice which said, 
"Make haste, and go to Eome. She, to whom you owe 
your soul, is dying." He dared not resist the impression 
thus made on him, and in all haste set out for Rome. 
When Catharine saw him, she said, " My Stephen, I thank 
God that you have come. His mercy will guide ijou also 
in the way of salvation." She then indicated to him her 
wish that he should, after her death, enter the Order of 


308 Cathanne of Siena. 

the Carthusians. She gave several other particular instruc- 
tions to those around her. The friars who were present she 
recommended to place themselves under the direction of 
Father Raymond, as being a prudent and single-hearted man. 
" Apply to him," she said, *' in your difficulties, and tell him, 
from me, never to be remiss, and never to fear, whatever 
may befall him." She appointed Alessia to be her successor 
over the household of the Mantellatas, who were so endeared 
to her by companionship in all her past labours. Lastly 
she turned to her beloved mother, who, bent with age and 
grief, stood motionless on one side by the pillow of her 
child, while Alessia on the other side supported her droop- 
ing head. Catharine asked Lapa to stoop down and kiss 
her, entreating her to give her her blessing. " Pardon my 
faults towards yourself, my best beloved," she said, "and 
give me your blessing." Barduccio continues, " I would 
that you had seen with what respect and humility she 
repeatedly asked the benediction of her aged mother, while 
that mother in return commended herself to the prayers of 
her daughter, and besought her to obtain for her the grace 
not to offend God by the bitterness of her grief. Catharine 
again prayed aloud for us all, and so tender and humble were 
her words, that we thought our hearts would cleave asunder." 
But this was not yet the end. The extraordinary 
vitality she possessed was manifested by the sudden and 
almost incredible exertions she made from time to time, 
and almost to the last ; and it now seemed to resist all 
the torture, and natural exhaustion of her worn-out frame. 
She lingered yet a few days. Again, in the early morn- 
ing of a day in the last week of April, her little remain- 
ing strength seemed suddenly and altogether to forsake 

Last Conflict. 309 

her. She lay perfectly motionless, giving no perceptible 
sign of life, and it was believed for a time that her spirit 
had fled at last. " It was, therefore, deemed expedient," 
says Barduccio, " to give her extreme unction, and the 
Abbot of St. Antimius hastened to administer it, as she 
seemed already bereft of all consciousness. After the ap- 
plication of this sacrament, a change came over her, and it 
now seemed, bj'' the expression of her countenance and the 
movements of her arms, that she was sustaining a terrible 
assault from Satan."- Several witnesses record this last sore 
conflict. When Catharine woke up from this temporary 
trance, a fever flush was on her face, and her mind was 
wandering. The poor brain was haunted with dark images, 
and the humble soul was plunged in deep darkness. She 
was to drink of that mysterious cup of anguish which is 
sometimes held to the lips of God's most faithful servants 
at the very moment when they are about to enter the 
valley of the shadow of death ; a cup so bitter that many a 
trembling heart, looking forward to that hour, and know- 
ing the cruelty of the enemy of souls, has cried out : " If it 
be possible, let it pass from me." Those around her looked 
on in silent awe, wholly unable to bring her any help or 
comfort ; for she heard nothing that was spoken by 
human lips. She seemed to be listening with terror to 
some dark and honible accusation. The nature and 
agony of that conflict, which lasted several hours, could 
only be guessed by her words and gestures. Sometimes 
she maintained silence, as if intently listening ; some- 
times she replied, but with a wild and wandering and 
troubled utterance. Sometimes, by a great effort, she 
raised herself a little, and seemed to answer back with 

310 Catharine of Siena. 

scorn what she had heard. She gesticulated, as if pleading 
in agony her own cause ; sometimes her look became de- 
fiant ; then again she would smile, and again seemed to be 
filled with indignation. That countenance which her com- 
panions had been used to see lit up with loving smiles, and 
full of serenity and holy joy, was now disfigured with the 
terror and anguish of that conflict which tests to the utmost 
the spiritual fibre of the human being — even of the holiest 
— when summoned to wrestle in the final death-grip with 
the spirit of evil, " the accuser of the brethren." Then, 
after maintaining a longer silence, she smiled and said dis- 
tinctly, " No, never ! never for vain-glory, but for the 
honour and glory of God." One of the accusations heard 
by her soul in that conflict seems to have been that she 
had sought her own glory and had loved the praise of men. 
"^Many persons," wrote Eaymond, on receiving this ac- 
count, "believed that she had courted praise, or at least 
enjoyed it, and for this reason took a pleasure in appearing 
in public. Some said, ' She ought to remain in her house, 
if she desires to serve God.' And this was her response, 
when she was dying, to those reproaches, the echoes of which 
tormented her fevered brain when thus laid low : ' No, 
never for vain-glory, but for the honour and glory of God.' " 
Barduccio continues : " Catharine then began to repeat 
the words, ' Peccavi, Domine, miserere mei ' (Lord, I 
have sinned; have mercy on me). She repeated them 
fifty or sixty times, raising her wasted right hand, which 
each time dropped suddenly again through weakness. 
Looking around her, she would say also, ' Saints of God, 
have pity on me ! ' After a time, as we were watching 
her, the expression of her countenance suddenly changed 

C&nsummatum est. 311 

and became radiant like that of a seraph. Her eyes, which 
had been obscured with tears, were now lighted up with 
an inexpressible joy. She seemed to come forth, trans- 
figured, from a profound abyss of darkness ; and that sight 
lightened the heavy burden of grief which had weighed 
upon us. She then again offered up prayer for those 
whom God had given her to love in a special manner, 
making use of the words of our Lord, when he commended 
his disciples to his Father : ' I pray for them whom thou 
hast given me ; for they are thine. And now I am no 
more in the world ; but these are in the world, and I come 
to thee. Holy, father, keep through thine own name those 
whom thou hast given me, that they may be one. I pray 
not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but 
that thou shouldest keep them from the evil. Sanctify 
them through thy truth ; thy word is truth.' Finally, she 
blessed us all, and hailed that supreme moment of life which 
she had so much desired, pronouncing these words : " Yes, 
Lord, thou callest me, and I go to thee ; I go — not on account 
of my merits, hut solely on account of thy mercies, and that 
mercy I implore in the name, Jesus, of thy precious 
blood.' She breathed forth several times the words, '0 
precious Saviour, O precious blood ! ' She then said, 
' Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit,' and with a 
countenance radiant as an angel's, she bowed her head and 

Catharine died at six o'clock on the evening of Sunday, 
the 29th of April, 1380, at the age of thirty-three years. 
It was the festival of St. Peter Martyr, the courageous 
Dominican, who, after a long apostolic career, fell under 
the blows of assassins, and when dying wrote upon the 

312 Catharine of Siena. 

ground with the blood that flowed from his wounds, the 
first words of the Credo, " I believe in God." 

A Roman lady of high rank, called Semia, had a vision, 
it was said, on the night after Catharine's death. She 
saw her ascending a golden staircase into heaven, and the 
Son of Man approaching to greet her by name. She did 
not know that Catharine was dead ; but, full of this vision, 
she ran early the next morning to the house in the street 
of Santa Chiara, and knocked at the door ; but no one 
answered. *' The neighbours informed her that Catharine 
had been visiting the churches, and that there was no one 
there ; for those within, who were mourning her, concealed 
her death, being desirous that the rumour should not get 
abroad too soon, as they would not be able tranquilly 
to discuss what was best to be done. It was decided 
that on the morrow the body of Catharine should be 
carried to the church of the Preaching Friars, called the 
church of the Minerva." Stephen says, evidently with 
an affectionate pride mingling with his reverence for his 
beloved mistress, " I carried her body with my own hands 
to the church of the Minerva, where it was deposited in a 
coffin or chest of cypress wood." As soon as the corpse of 
Catherine had been borne to the church, the whole city of 
Rome became aware of her death, and a multitude collected 
from every side. "The populace moved forward like 
turbulent waves, hoping to be allowed to touch her gar- 
ments." Her disciples, fearing for the safety of the be- 
loved body, placed it behind the grate of the chapel of 
St, Dominic. She lay with her hands crossed on her 
breast, and a smile of infinite peace on her face. She 
was clothed in a new white robe and veil, and the dear 

Incidents after her Death. 313 

old, worn Dominican cloak was wrapped around her. Her 
followers by turns kept vigil night and day around her. 
Semia,the Roman lady just mentioned, seeing the vast crowd, 
asked its cause, and when she knew that Catharine was dead, 
she forced her way, sobbing, to the place. She said to the 
friends around, " How cruel of you to conceal from me the 
death of my spiritual mother whom I loved so much! Why 
did you not summon me 1 " While they were making their 
excuses she inquired at what time Catharine died. " About 
the sixth hour," they replied, " she gave up her soul to her 
Creator." "I saw her, I saw her!" cried Semia; and she 
recounted the vision to the Mantellatas, who wei'e shielding 
the corpse by their presence. 

So great a crowd pressed daily into the church during 
the three days that the body remained there, that it was 
necessary to place guards and sentinels around and in- 
side the building. On the third day a celebrated Doctor 
of Theology ascended the pulpit, intending to preach her 
funeral sermon ; but it was impossible to obtain suffi- 
cient calm to allow him to proceed. At last he pro- 
nounced, as audibly as he could, the words, "This holy 
one has no need of our preaching and eulogy ; she her- 
self speaks, and her life is her eulogy;" and he came 
down from the pulpit, not even having begun his dis- 
course. Friar William of England left his retreat at Lec- 
ceto to go to Siena when the news of Catharine's death 
had reached that city, and preached a sermon to a great 
multitude who held her name in honour. "It is with 
hymns of joy," he said, "and not with tears, that we 
should celebrate the death of Catharine." " Some days 
after her death," says Bartholomew of Siena, in his 

314 CatJiarine of Siena. 

deposition, " a man of exalted piety, named John of Pisa, 
came very early in the morning and knocked at my door. 
I opened it, and he said to me, 'Catharine of Siena is 
coming.' ' How can she come ? ' I asked, * for she is dead.' 
• You will see her,' he replied, and vanished so quickly that 
I could not call him back. One Sunday after this, after 
having recited the midnight office, I lay down to take a 
little repose, when, towards daylight, I saw, in a cloudless 
sky, a multitude of blessed spirits advancing in procession. 
They were clothed in white, and they sang sacred hymns, 
the Kijrie Eleison and Gloria in Excelsis, In the centre of the 
procession was Catharine. She was clad like the angels, 
and she resembled the Saviour. In her hand she bore a 
palm-branch, her head was inclined, and her eyes cast 
down. I prayed that God would send me the comfort of 
beholding her countenance. I was heard ; she raised her 
head and looked at me with the ineffable smile which 
always expressed the joy of her soul. The procession 
then resumed its onward march, continuing the heavenly 

The republic of Siena having expressed, by a deputa- 
tion of its citizens to the lioman Pontiff, its jealousy of 
the honour of the possession of the body of the saint, 
and its desire to establish a monument to her in her 
native city, the Pope ordained the " pious mutilation," 
which cannot be contemplated without a feeling of pain. 
The head of the poor saint was severed from the body, 
and with great ceremony was presented in a coffer to the 
ambassadors of the city of Siena. It was a year after 
her death that the coveted relic was conveyed to her 
native city. 

Honours paid io her Merrmy. 315 

Two monks of the church of the Minerva carried the 
treasure. The entrance into Siena resembled a popular 
triumph. The Bishop had ordained that a solemn pro- 
cession should leave the city and go forward a mile on the 
road towards Rome, in order to meet those who bore the 
relic. The streets of Catharine's native city, so far from 
having the appearance of mourning, were decked as if for a 
festival. It was the month of May, and the city gates were 
adorned with arches of flowers ; flowers also were strewn 
in the streets ; the whole population, joyous and in holiday 
attire, stood waiting on the ramparts and the slopes leading 
down from the city ; the houses were hung with scarves and 
banners, and leafy garlands ; the bells of the churches rang 
out as if for a holiday. The procession was headed by the 
different guilds and associations of workmen. Then fol- 
lowed the representatives of the different monastic orders, 
singing psalms of praise ; after this came the clergy, carry- 
ing tapers. The head of the procession, having encountered 
the messengers bearing the relic on the road from Rome, 
turned with them, and the long procession re-entered 
the city. Close around the sacred remains walked the 
relations and disciples of Catharine. First among the 
former was seen the venerable Lapa, now in her eightieth 
year. (Lapa died at the age of ninety.) She leaned upon 
the arm of Alessia. As she passed, the people saluted 
her — sometimes with tears, sometimes with joyful words 
of congratulation. " How happy art thou !" they said, " to 
witness thus the recognition by the Republic of thy sainted 
daughter." But Lapa wept. It was then that she repeated 
her regret at having survived so many of her loved ones. 
" It is only I," she said, " who cannot die. It seems as if 

316 CatJiarine of Siena. 

God had riveted my soul to my body." The magistrates 
and gonfaloniers of the city followed the clergy in the pro- 
cession, and, finally, the flower of the nobility of Tuscany 
closed the rear of this corUge of honour. The procession 
having reached the gates of the old church of St. Dominic, 
so endeared to Catharine in her childhood and youth, 
Stephen, Father Raymond, and the brothers and sisters of 
St. Dominic who were waiting there, received the precious 
relic and placed it in the church. The people continued 
during the day to commemorate her by religious services 
and social assonblies. 

The custom has been maintained to the present day of 
having an annual festival in the month of May on the 
feast of St. Catharine, at which a banquet is prepared for 
the poor and needy of the city and its neighbourhood. 
It was at first a commemoration of a religious character, 
concluded by an address given by an appointed speaker 
upon the life and virtues of the saint ; but the custom 
has degenerated into a mere feast, at Avhich very little 
real appreciation of the character of Catharine is observ- 
able. Efforts have been made, however, within the last 
twenty years in Italy to revive the memory of her in a 
rational and useful manner, so that the facts of her life 
and the excellence of her character may be made promi- 
nent, in place of those childish traditions and superstitions 
connected with her name which ai'e now current. 

We may follow briefly the history of a few of the friends 
of Catharine of whom we know anything after her death. 

Barduccio, whom she specially loved on account of the 
singular purity of his character, was attacked a few weeks 
after her death with disease of the lungs. It was evident 

Stephen in Old Age. 317 

that he would never recover ; and Alessia and others coun- 
selled him to leave Eome, as the climate was hurtful to 
him. He went to Siena, where he died in a few months, 
at the age of twenty-three. 

Stephen entered the Order of the Carthusians, and be- 
came prior of a large convent at Milan, and the active 
visitor of other convents of his order. In his old age he 
retired to Pontignano, at the foot of his beloved hills of 
Siena. He transcribed the life of Catharine in Latin and 
Italian. Several copies of these biographies were made. 
One was sent by request to the King of Hungary, another 
to the King of England ; others to various potentates. 

One of his last acts was to write the appendix, already 
quoted, to the record of Father Eaymond, at the time when 
the question arose of Catharine's canonization. He thus con- 
cludes his testimony : "Here, then, is my testimony to the 
life of Catharine of Siena. I have written it without re- 
search, and in the simplicity of my heart, though oppressed 
with physical sufferings and numerous occupations. You re- 
quired of me to be truthful in all that I should advance, and 
I affirm in sincerity and quietness of conscience that I have 
added nothing to the truth. I know that a false tongue slays 
the soul, and that God has no need of our exaggerations. I 
know also that it is not permitted to do evil that good maj' 
come. Be persuaded, therefore, that I have told the truth. 
I attest it in the presence of the Omniscient, to whom be all 
praise and glory for ever and ever. This declaration has 
been written by two notaries in the presence of numerous 
witnesses. We have appended to it the great seal of our 
convent in order to satisfy your request." Stephen died in 
1424. It is said of him, that when he was an aged man it 

318 Catharine of Siena. 

yvsLS his constant delight, in his walks with his friars, to 
speak of Catharine. " He recalled the smallest details of 
her life ; and on one occasion, at the sudden remembrance 
of some little thing illustrative of her loving kindness and 
her sufferings, he burst into tears. It seemed as if his heart 
would break; the brothers were obliged to support the old 
man to a seat, in an open meadow, where a soft wind was 
blowing. He here recovered his equanimity after a time."^ 

The young nobleman, Neri di Landoccio, Catharine's 
ambassador to Naples, did not return to Rome before her 
death. He afterwards wrote out Catharine's book, and 
collected her letters. He gave up all his wealth and pos- 
sessions, and retired to a life of seclusion and study. 

Alessia only survived her beloved fnend and mistress a 
year or two, leaving the guardianship of the mystic family 
to Lisa, the sister of Catharine. 

Certain French writers have attributed the scandalous 
division in the Church to Catharine's influence. It was 
she who persuaded Gregory XI. to return to Eome, and 
the Schism, they assert, was a consequence of that return. 
It is easy, however, to see that the Schism was the 
natural consequence of the long voluntary expatriation of 
the Popes, and their residence at Avignon. These were, 
as we have already seen, the causes to a great extent of 
the political and social miseries of Italy in the fourteenth 
century. The cardinals, almost all French, never ceased 
after the election of Urban VI. to long for the return to 
their native land, and resented the efforts of the newly 
elected Italian Pope to reform the morals of the clergy. 

' Bollandus, p. 971. 

The End of the Schism. 319 

Their last resource, as we have also seen, was the election 
of a rival Pope, a Frenchman, and one who would restore 
to them the delights of Avignon. The Schism lasted until 
the Council of Constance in 1417. The restoration of the 
unity of the Church was at that time achieved in a great 
measure through the magnanimity of Gregory XII. and 
the efforts of the Cardinal of Eagusa. Angelo Corrario 
who was afterwards elected by the Roman Church as 
Gregory XII., was Archbishop of Venice and Patriarch of 
Constantinople at the time of the election of Urban VI. 
He was an intimate friend and ally of Catharine.^ She 
wrote to him urgently on the great subject she had at 
heart — the reformation of the Church — beseeching him to 
elect as pastors only men of pure and honourable lives, 
and to be fearless in rebuking vice. He held her in such 
veneration that, on receiving the news of her death, he 
sent a messenger to Rome to beg to be allowed the posses- 
sion of some relic of her. This was granted to him, and 
the relic was found after his death suspended round his 
neck. It is not unnatural to suppose that her ardent 
counsels to him concerning contempt for this world and 
its honours, dwelt in his mind, and that his magnanimous 
action at the time of the Council of Constance may to 
some extent have been due to her living influence and the 
memory of her advice. The Cardinal of Ragusa had also 
been a friend of Catharine. He frequently sought her 
counsels. He and others of her disciples never ceased to 
labour for the destruction of the Schism. 

Gregory XII., according to all historians a learned and 

1 See Letter No. 341, edition Gigli. 

320 Catharine of Siena. 

pious man, voluntarily resigned the Papacy in 1415, so that 
there might again be only one Pope. An Italian Pope was 
elected, and it was agreed by the French supporters of 
the Papacy of Avignon, that that city should henceforth be 
abandoned by the Papal Court, which should be perma- 
nently re-established at Eome. Thus discord ceased, and 
unity was restored to the Church. But a mere outward 
unity, such as this, would have failed to satisfy Catharine, 
had she lived to see it realized. The true " unity of the 
spirit, in the bond of peace and righteousness of life," a 
unity based upon a living and fruitful faith in Christ 
crucified, is what she would have desired and laboured for 
with the unceasing activity and fervour which characterized 
her through life ; and more eagerly than ever, in the midst 
of increasing corruptions in faith and practice, would she 
have looked onward to that reformation of which she spoke 
to her friends at Pisa, when she foretold : " After these 
tribulations God will purify his Church by means unknown 
to man ; he will revive the souls of his elect, and the refor- 
mation of the Church will be so beautiful that the prospect 
of it fills my soul with joy." 

One word concerning some of the contemporaries of 
Catharine who were not distinguished as those just men- 
tioned for virtue or piety. John Hawkwood, the warlike 
chieftain, whose fame as a soldier lives to this day, died 
in Tuscany in 1394 of malaria fever, worn out by cam- 
paigning and exposure. The Florentine republic, which 
he had continued to serve, caused him to be buried with 
honours in the cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, and 
an equestrian statue, which they elevated to his honour, 
may there be seen to this day. 

Treachery of Galeazzo Fisconfi. 321 

Bernabos Visconti, the cruel and detested Duke of Milan, 
and tyrant of Lombardy, continued successfully in his 
course of rapacity and self-aggrandizement until the year 
1 385. He had thirty-three children, of whom all but five 
Avere bastards. He continued to enrich himself by extor- 
tions and intolerable taxes imposed on his subjects, " His 
brutal pride, his transports of anger, his cruelties and his 
profligacy, had brought upon him the universal contempt 
and hatred of the Italian people." He found himself more 
secure in his dominions, and more at peace outwardly 
with neighbouring states in this year than he had ever 
been in the course of his life. But he was shortly to 
be called to judgment. John Galeazzo Visconti, his 
nephew, was as ambitious and unscrupulous as himself. 
He had determined to possess himself of his uncle's vast 
estates and wealth. In order to carry out his plan, arti- 
fice was necessary. Galeazzo suddenly appeared before 
the world in a new character. Having been till now a 
soldier and a worldling, he seemed to become a penitent 
and a fanatic ; he frequented the shrines and churches all 
day long ; he wore a coarse penitential garment, and 
walked with his eyes cast down. He was surrounded 
with a numerous guard, all wearing the aspect of peni- 
tents, his pretext for this being that he was afflicted with a 
nervous fear of assassination. He affected great timidity 
and a superstitious dread of death, and would start at 
every sound. His uncle regarded all this with scorn, and 
spoke of his nephew as a lunatic whose worldly career must 
now be regarded as closed. Galeazzo then had it pro- 
claimed that he intended to visit a miraculous image of 
the Virgin at Varese on Lago Maggiore. He set out from 


322 Catharine of Siena. 

his ducal palace at Pavia, with a numerous escort, on 
this pious pilgrimage. On the evening of the 6th of May 
the troop approached Milan. Bernabos came forth to 
greet his nephew; he rode out from the Vercellina gate, 
on a mule, unaccompanied. He had been warned by a 
physician of Milan that treachery awaited him; but he 
replied to the warning with the scorn of one who has 
passed a long life of unchecked and successful villany. 
" But the time had come when God was about to call to 
account this detestable man, laden with so many crimes." ^ 
His nephew approached and embraced him tenderly, and 
then turning to his followers, he suddenly threw off the 
mask of the meek pilgrim, and pronounced, in the rude 
German which was at that time the military language of all 
Europe, the one word, "Arrest!" In a moment Bernabos 
was surrounded by armed men ; one seized the bridle of 
his mule, another cut the belt of his sword, and another 
bound his hands behind his back. In vain the betrayed 
man cried out against the treachery of Galeazzo to his own 
kinsman, his own flesh and blood. Galeazzo marched into 
Milan and took possession. Not a voice was raised on 
behalf of Bernabos, who was conducted, bound and blind- 
folded, to the dungeon of the castle of Trezzo, which he 
himself had built, and in which many victims of his cruelty 
had died a violent or a lingering death. The sons of Ber- 
nabos failed to bring him any aid. No one arose for his 
defence. The world was glad to forget him ; his own 
relations even ceased to mention his name. " He had 
leisure," says Muratori, " for meditation, in the prison of 

^ Muratori, Lib. xii., p. 667. 

Death of Bernabos Visconti. 323 

Trezzo, on the instability of human greatness." Three 
times, at intervals, poison was administered to him ; but 
his robust frame resisted its effects to such a degree that it 
did not prove fatal, but only produced the most insupport- 
able bodily anguish. Thus, for seven months, he lived, 
or rather died, a long, lingering, and horrible death, alone, 
with no one to minister to the wants of his tortured body, 
or to speak to him a word of hope in God. Catharine had 
written to him, a few years before, faithful and earnest 
letters, full of love and pity for the sinner whom she 
addressed, and whose evil doing she rebuked with horror. 
" Do not suppose," she wrote, " that because we see no 
sign in this life that God's eye is upon us, he will not one 
day visit our offences. When the soul is leaving the body, 
it will then be fully proved that God has seen all. . . . 
The Sovereign Judge never leaves unpunished the in- 
justices of man, which are visited in the place and at the 
time appointed by him ; above all at the moment of death, 
when the veil which shrouds our vision is torn asunder — 
then all is clearly seen." She concluded her stern rebukes 
and warnings with words of pleading and charity : " ! 
resist not the Spirit of God which is calling you. Think, 
0, think that the blood and tears of the Divine Son are able 
to cleanse you from head to foot. Despise not this offer of 
grace. Behold how God loves you ! No tongue can tell, 
no heart can conceive, the mercy and grace which viH be 
granted to you, if you will but dispose yourself to rid your 
soul of mortal sin. Humble yourself under the mighty 
hand of God, and believe in Jesus crucified for you." It 
was believed that the miserable man retained in his heart 
some echo of these words, written by one whose hope and 


324 Catharine of Siena. 

pity for sinners were known to be illimitable, and whose name 
had then been, for five years, revered as that of a prophet 
acquainted with the secrets of God. For it was told of him 
at the last, and to the surprise of all, "Behold he prayeth ! " 
Worn out and dying, unclean and uncared for, the forlorn 
creature dragged himself and his chains, day by day, from 
his pallet to the grating of his cell, where a dim ray from 
without fell upon his unshorn and haggard face ; and 
clutching, with foul and bony fingers the bars of his window, 
he remained, hour after hour, and day after day, gasping 
forth in his agony, without ceasing, the words, " Cor con- 
tritum et humiliatum, Deus non despicies" — " A broken and 
a contrite heart, God, thou wilt not despise. "^ He died 
on the 18th of December, 1385, at the age of sixty -four. 

In the course of this narrative, the letters of Catharine, 
which have been quoted in order to illustrate her public 
career, are for the most part those addressed to great 
people, princes and potentates, ecclesiastical and tem- 
poral. It must not be supposed, however, that her cor- 
respondence was wholly, or even chiefly, with persons of 
high rank or authority ; the greater number of them are 
addressed to humbler persons. Many are written to mem- 
bers of her own family, which was a very large one ; a great 
number to men and women at the heads of convents or 
religious societies; others are addressed to persons with- 
out name, who were in some kind of trouble and greatly 
in need of a friend. The following list will give some 
idea of the extent and variety of her correspondence : — 

1 Muratori, Lib. xii., p. 669 ; and notes of P. Burlamacohi on the 
" Letters of St. Catharine." 

Variety of her Correspondence. 325 

Twonty-four letters to Master Pipino, a tailor of Florence, 
and Agnesa his wife. (These were probably the honour- 
able citizens who sheltered her during the revolution, when 
it was deemed unsafe by others to receive her into their 
houses). A letter to the keeper of the prisons (stinche) at 
Florence. To a harness-maker of Lucca. To the Elders 
of Lucca. To Master Francis, physician to the Pope. 
Five letters to Peter Gambiacorti, Signore of Pisa, and 
his family. To Master Cristofero G-ana, who had asked 
her to help him to choose a wife. Many letters to Alessia 
dei Sarracini, her most dear and intimate friend. To 
Laurencio di Pino, Jurisconsult and Professor of Law at 
the University of Bologna. To her three brothers settled 
as wool-dyers at Florence. (In one of these letters she 
begs them to be more loving to their mother, Lapa, and to 
repay to her some money which she had lent them). Many 
letters to Stephen, and to Neri di Landoccio. To a linen- 
weaver at Florence. To a currier named Perotti and 
to Lippa his wife, at Lucca. To Sabri, a goldsmith at 
Siena. To an abominably profligate man, name not 
mentioned. To several prisoners at Siena. To the Jew 
Consiglio, a usurer, who had settled in Siena and made 
so large a fortune that the magistrates of the city thought 
it right to institute an inquiry into the means by which 
he had amassed it. Many letters addressed to the magis- 
trates of Siena and of Lucca ; to the gonfaloniers of 
Perugia, of Florence, and of Rome. To various citizens 
of Siena, thirty-four letters. To Brothers of St. Dominic, 
and to Mantellatas, fifty-five letters. A letter to her 
little niece Jenny ; one to a great prelate not named ; 
and one to a " Lady who was always murmuring." One 

326 Cathaiine of Siena. 

of the most remarkable of her letters, in respect of dignity 
of style, is that which she addressed to the magistrates of 
Siena when they complained of the length of her visit to 
the aristocratic family of the Salimbeni, in the neighbour- 
hood of that city. She writes : " In reply, dear Brothers 
and Signors, to the letter which Thomas di Guelfuccio 
has brought me from you, I desire to thank you for the 
kindness which you manifest towards your fellow-citizens, 
and towards myself in particular, who am so little worthy. 
You desire my return. I do not act on my own impulse, 
but I leave it to God to order my ways ; and so soon as 
the Holy Spirit permits me to obey your orders, I will bow 
my head, and go wherever it is your good pleasure that I 
should go ; but I shall always consider the will of God 
before that of men. At the present moment I see it not to 
be possible for me to return, because it is necessary that I 
should conclude an important business concerning the 
convent of St. Agnes, and that I should confer with the 
nephews of Monsignore Spinello, in order to bring about 
the reconciliation of the sons of Lorenzo. A long time has 
elapsed since you yourselves took up this affair, and as 
yet nothing has been accomplished. I do not wish that, 
through any negligence of mine, or through my sudden 
departure, the matter should be postponed. I should fear 
thus to displease God. Be assured I will return as soon 
as God's work is completed. Have patience, therefore, 
gentlemen — you and my other fellow-citizens. Do not 
open your hearts to all the fancies suggested by the evil 
one, who only desires to hinder every good work for 
the honour of God, the salvation of souls, and your own 
peace. I regret the trouble which my fellow-citizens 

Extracts from her Letters. 327 

give themselves in their judgments of me. It appears as 
though they had no better occupation in life than to speak 
ill of me and my companions. For myself they are right, 
for I have faults enough ; but for those who are with me, 
they are wrong. We shall conquer, however, by patience. 
Patience is never conquered ; she is alwaj'-s victorious, and 
ever remains at last mistress of the position. What really 
grieves me is that the darts flung after us fall back again 
upon those who fling them. No more. May you rest in the 
holy remembrance of God. —Catharine." One more cita- 
tion only shall be given, as characteristic of her tender and 
liberal nature. Fra Giusto, prior of the convent of Mon- 
toliveto, had had scruples about receiving into his com- 
munity a certain gentle young friend of Catharine, because 
■ he was the illegitimate and disowned son of a dissolute 
man. Catharine writes : " I pray you, dear father, never 
to regard anyone in the light of any outward circumstances, 
or of any greatness or baseness of birth which he may 
possess. Question not if such an one be legitimately or 
illegitimately born. The Son of God, in whose steps you 
are bound to follow, never discarded anyone on account of 
his outward condition, were he a just man or a criminal ; 
but every reasonable creature desiring to flee from siu 

was and is acceptable to him Let this youth 

be born as he may, God no more despises the soul of 
one born in sin, than he does the soul of one born in 
wedlock. It is good and sincere desires alone which are 
regarded by our God ; and, therefore, I pray and demand 
that you receive kindly this tender plant who desires to 
be planted in your garden, for he has a good will and holy 
desires. ... I have wondered exceedingly at your refusal 

328 Catharine of Siena. 

of him. Perhaps he who brought the message made some 
mistake. But now I pray you, in the name of Christ 
crucified, to dispose yourself to receive him heartily, for he 
is a good boy ; if he had not been so, I would not have sent 
him to you." On another occasion she wrote to an Abbot 
of Montoliveto, beseeching, or rather commanding, him to 
receive again a young monk who had run away, and now 
penitently desired to return. 

It must not be supposed that the many letters addressed 
by her to persons in a humble sphere of life were such as we, 
in modern times, may write very many of in a day, on com- 
mon matters of business. The letters to her friends who 
were artisans or tradesmen of Florence and Siena are in 
general very long and earnest arguments upon the Christian 
life, and full of affectionate counsels concerning the state 
and condition of the individual addressed, and of his family. 
She wrote to them in the same terras as she wrote to 
Kings, Cardinals, and Popes — with reverence and con- 
siderateness, combined with courageous truthfulness, and, 
when necessary, with severity, and addressing them alike 
as " most dear and honoured father in Christ." She was a 
true republican, in the sense that in her dealings with men 
as fellow-sinners and fellow-Christians she recognized no 
diflFercnces of rank. 

It is not difficult to imagine what were the faults in 
Catharine's character, and the natural tendencies against 
which she, most probably all her life, had to contend. 
Her zeal and fire would naturally carry her on to im- 
patience; and it must have been difficult for her to bear 
with equanimity the delays and checks induced by the 
stumblings and errors of others which so often postponed 

The Faults in her Character. 329 

or injured the work she had at heart. It is evident also 
that her genius for command may have tempted her to 
exercise an imperious self-will, and to rule in too despotic 
a manner. Again, there are evidences that at times, when 
the strong claims of active duty were relaxed, she incurred 
a danger of being carried away by excess of feeling, in the 
exaltation of her spirit, and the intense communion of her 
soul with the unseen. This latter danger was controlled, 
however, by the deep, strong, human affection which ever 
impelled her to impart to others all that she had received 
of God, and to see in every human being who needed help 
the image of him whom her soul adored. Impatience and 
impetuosity of will were corrected — as indeed every other 
fault of character can alone be corrected — by the constant 
exercise of the virtues which balanced and controlled them, 
hope, patience, faith, and the renunciation of self. Towards 
the end of her life it is observable that she dwelt very 
strongly and constantly on the virtue of patience — that 
virtue of which no doubt she had felt the deficiency in 
herself, and which she had resolutely striven to possess. 
Patience, she thought, was the great lesson, above all 
others, which God is always teaching his children. She 
calls it the " touchstone of all the virtues." 

The canonization of Catharine took place in 1461. 
The proceedings had first been instituted, and witnesses 
had begun to be questioned, in 1402, by Gregory XII. 
But the troubles of his times in connection with the 
Schism obliged him to postpone these preliminaries; and it 
fell to the lot of Eneas Silvius, a Sienese, who was elevated 
to the papacy as Pius II., to place her name on the 
calendar of the saints. There is a touch of nature in 

330 Catharive of Siena. 

the otherwise formal Bull of Canonization published by 
him. "This affair has been deferred," he says, "until 
our time, and the canonization of our countrywoman has 
been referred to us. The sanctity of the virgin of Siena 
shall be proclaimed by a native of Siena ; and we confess 
that in this we experience a sensible consolation. We 
should have contemplated in any case with jo}' the 
virtues, the genius, the greatness of soul, the strength 
and fortitude of this blessed Catharine ; but we do so all 
the more because she, like ourselves, first saw the light 
in the city of Siena." 

Cardinal Ximenes caused the letters of Catharine to be 
translated into Spanish about the year 1450, Spain having, 
up to that time, refused, in its partisanship for Clement, 
to recognize the merits of the champion of Urban VI. 

Catharine's letters only very rarely contain any allusions 
to her own outward history, although they reveal abundantly 
the character of her mind. They are for the most part 
purely spiritual ; and when she refers to any contemporary 
event, it is from the lofty view of the Christian, who regards 
more the spirit than the external movements of the times 
in which she is placed. It is with difficulty that we are 
able to trace in them any clear outline even of her own 
outward relations with the Church and with her personal 
friends and contemporaries, though we see in them clearly 
the travail of her soul for all these, and her indefatigable 
zeal in labouring to win men to Christ. 

I have accomplished my task, of writing the story of 
the life of Catharine of Siena. Very imperfectly, I am 
too well aware, has it been done ; yet I conclude with the 
hope that the record may carry a message to the hearts 

Mediceval Biographies of the Saints. 331 

of many who read it, and may be the means of reviving the 
strong and loving influence of this woman, who lived five 
hundred years ago, so that it may he said concerning her, 
even now, " she being dead, yet speaketh." It is no easy 
task, looking back through the mists of ages, to discover 
athwart the medium of the apotheoses of the saint which 
are presented to us by Catholic writers as biography, the 
real woman, such as she was in her true character. The 
greatest of the saints were flesh and blood like ourselves ; 
yet not so, by any means, are the}'' represented by the 
mediaeval hagiologist. The memoir by Father Raymond 
gives us the internal life of Catharine as faithfully as he 
was able to render it ; but her wonderful outward life and 
public career are almost entirely left out of his record. 
When he mentions any part of these, he does so only 
parenthetically, and in order to illustrate the several virtues 
which formed, as he says, " her aureole." The formality of 
style usual in his time leads him to head his various cliapters 
according to the different graces in which she excelled. 
One is headed "Her Patience;" another "Her Austerities;" 
another "Her Sighs for Death," &c. A more wearisome 
and uninteresting memoir could hardly be imagined of a 
very original and highly gifted person, whose life was 
like a beautiful drama, ever widening, and increasing in 
solemnity and fulness of incident to the end. And yet 
conscience reproaches me for a species of ingratitude in 
pronouncing this judgment of Raymond's work; for to 
him, above all others, are we indebted for the kei/ to 
both her inward and outward life ; and from him alone, 
her intimate friend and companion, do we gather some 
of the most touching incidents and the most characteristic 

332 Catharine of Siena. 

traits. He rarely condescends, however, to give a plain 
statement of any of the facts of her life. For example, he 
never states historically that she went to Florence, or why. 
He merely says, in different parts of his book, " When we 
were at Florence, she did or said so and so;" and then calls 
upon the reader to admire the great humility or the super- 
human patience of the saint. He very rarely gives a date. 
There are, it may be said, three dates in the whole course 
of the book, which come to the eager student of her active 
life with a sense of surprise and relief, as a sign-post would 
to a traveller after a hundred miles of vague wandering 
through a country without roads. All the other early bio- 
graphies of Catharine are based upon that of Kaymond, with 
little variation. It may be truly said that these biogi-aphers 
unconsciously represented Catharine in a form which as 
nearly resembled the real woman as the figures on the 
painted windows of old churches resemble the flesh and 
blood originals. To describe human enthusiasm in high and 
passionate action requires a gift which few writers have 
possessed. Instead of the high and beautiful humanity, 
the old biographers of the saints give us only a super- 
humanity which leaves us with an unsatisfied longing to 
possess the real portrait instead. Fully appreciating the 
difficulty of the task, and foreseeing the necessarily most 
imperfect result, I set it as my aim to endeavour, by 
steady and honest study, to bring out truthfully, as far as 
was possible, the real woman, Catharine of Siena. At 
the best, the picture must be defective. Owing to the 
omissions in the biographies of Kaymond and his imita- 
tors, it has been necessary to search for side lights upon 
her character and career, in many of the annalists and 

Her Detractors. 333 

chroniclers of her time, lay and ecclesiastical. Some of 
these have afforded considerable help towards eliciting the 
humanness of the person portrayed, and the reality and 
activity of her life. Although in most of these her name is 
cited with a tender reverence, yet this is not always the 
case. The adverse testimonies are not without their value. 
Some speak of her as one "reputed to be wise," but having 
no knowledge of the world, of public questions, or of diplo- 
macy. The French historians of the Schism who espoused 
the cause of Clement VII. seldom speak well of her. This 
is not unnatural, considering the prominent part she took 
in upholding the Italian Pope. Indeed, her reputation in 
France, until a very recent date, has suffered from the 
blackening touches given to the portrait of her character by 
the Clementines, in the same way that the character of Joan 
of Arc remained in England so long under the slur cast 
upon her by our own Shakespeare and his contemporaries. 
M. Bouchon, the translator into French of Machiavelli's 
" History of Florence," made the following comment upon 
the notice there given of Catharine and her mission to 
Florence : " Pius II. on his death-bed repented bitterly of 
three things : of having written the book of ' The two 
Lovers ; ' of having preached a crusade ; and of having 
canonized that sovereignly contemptible woman, Catha- 
rine of Siena.'"^ Sismondi remarks, with a touch of the 
peculiar nineteenth century scorn of women : " It was 
not to be expected that they (the Eight of War) should 

1 It may be worthy of remark, that Maimbourg, a historian of the 
period of the Schism, who was an ardent Clementine, invariably 
speaks with respect of Catharine. 

334 Catharine of Siena. 

be biassed by the advice of a well-meaning but enthusiastic 
woman, in matters of importance to the State;" and we 
have occasional notices of her, of this character, either 
contemptuously patronizing or positively hostile, down to 
a few words of the present day, written by the Rev. 
Andrew Reed, who speaks of her as the " Dominican 
Pythoness," who was "said to have visions of Christ."^ 

There is, however, a certain value, real of its kind, in 
the early biographies, pale and unlife-like, and abounding 
in puerilities as they are. The writers at least believed 
what they wrote, and their affection for the subject of 
their biographies led them undoubtedly to put down the 
substance of the truth concerning her, however en- 
veloped that substance may be with clouds of incense 
and mists of superstitious reverence. Tedious and dis- 
appointing as they are, they will yet appear to many 
readers far more satisfactory than sketches of her life, or 
poems in her honour written by persons full of enthusiasm 
for the genius and power of the human being, full of 
poetic appreciation of the beauty of the life of self-devo- 
tion (or as it is now the fashion to call it, altruism), but 
utterly rejecting the faith of which that life was the out- 
come and product. Alike inquisitive and critical con- 
cerning the ecstasies, exaltations, and trances of the 
mystic, while dwelling with artistic delight on the beauty 
of this noble apparition on the stage of history, the 
modern sceptic throws himself for the moment on his 
face before her, and worships " he knows not what ;" he 

^ "The Story of ('hrislianity, from the Apostles to the Present 
Day," p. L'87. 

Lessons of her Life. 335 

then goes his way, never having truly known what manner 
of person she was, unbelieving as ever in regard to the 
common inheritance which the poorest and most miserable 
stiuggler after Christ shares with the highest and holiest of 
the saints, and ignorant as before of that eternal source and 
fount of life whence the most noble and gifted, as well as 
the meanest of the children of men must needs draw the life 
through which alone they are transformed into saints of God. 

There is no need to call upon any to admire the genius 
of Catharine. There are many who will be able to draw 
philosophical deductions, infinitely better than I can, from 
the facts of such a life and such a character as have been 
depicted. There are many who will be interested in regard- 
ing Catharine as a typical character, or the representative 
of much that was the best and strongest in the era in which 
she lived ; as a person who could only by any possibility 
have been born and nurtured under the sunny skies of 
Italy, who could only have proceeded from such a simple 
and hardy race as that of the artisans of Siena, and who 
could only have reached what she attained to under the 
combined and strongly-contrasted influences of Roman 
Catholicism and Republicanism. In all these respects 
Catharine stands, as it were, apart from us, and at a dis- 
tance. We have no share in the circumstances above 
named, which may have contributed more or less to her 
greatness. In concluding, therefore, I had rather draw 
attention to what we in England, and in the nineteenth 
century, have in common with her — what, indeed, every 
human being shares or may share with her. 

In common with her, we possess much that is external 
to us; the priceless inheritance claimed and striven for 

336 Catharine of Siena. 

by all who have been truly great in the sense of bringing 
blessing to humanity. We have one Father, the Eternal, 
the Just One, the ever Faithful, whose name is Love. We 
have one Saviour, he who is the Word, who was with God 
from the beginning, and who was made flesh and lived 
among us, died, and rose again for our salvation. We have 
one Source, approachable by us all, of undying spiritual 
life — the Holy Spirit, whom that Saviour poured forth upon 
his waiting disciples on the day of Pentecost, and who now 
waits each moment at the door of every heart, to be ad- 
mitted and to bring light, life, and peace. We have, in 
common with the saint whose life we have followed, an ever- 
free access to the Father, by prayer. That path of prayer 
which she firmly and unwearyingly trod is open to every 
one of us. If her life illustrates one truth more forcibly than 
another, it is that of the efficacy and power of prayer, and 
the fidelity of God in answering the petitions of those who 
wait on him. We have, in common with her, not only all 
this, which is external to ourselves, but we have each one 
of us within us the power to look upward, to pray, to turn 
our faces resolutely to the light, and to urge ourselves 
onwards towards that light. It requires no mighty genius 
to become strong in faith and in prayer. It needs not the 
hand of a giant to lay hold upon the hand of the All- 
powerful and All-loving, The hand of a child can equally 
well grasp that hand, and, in so doing, out of weakness be 
made strong. We have the power to cultivate the human 
affection within us, until, freeing itself from all littleness 
and egotism, it embraces humanity, and, liberated from 
the thraldom of restless passion and excess, it becomes a 
chastened, ever-burning, and unquenchable love towards 

Leasonfi of her Life. 337 

our fellows, ever ready to weep with those who weep, and 
to rejoice with those who rejoice, to believe all things, to 
hope all things, and to endure all things. 

We all have the power, God helping us, to become honest, 
truthful, courageous, just, patient, self-denying, and kind. 
We can all learn to oppose persistently and with courage 
what we know to be evil, and to speak each one to his 
neighbour, faithfully and in love, what we believe to be the 

Every truly great man or woman who can justly be 
called blessed as well as great, learned at first to be faithful 
n a few things, and in that which was least, before being 
called to control and to act in the midst of great things ; 
and for each of us it is possible to begin from this moment 
to perform every act of our daily life with an upright in- 
tention and a pure conscience before God and man ; and in 
so doing we shall have already advanced not a few steps 
along that path of humble glory which the blessed great 
have trodden before us. No truer meed of praise could be 
given to any man than that which Lord Cobham gave to 
Wycliffe : " As for that virtuous man Wycliffe, I shall say, 
of my part, both before God and man, that before I knew 
that despised doctrine of his I never abstained from sin. 
But since I learned therein to fear my Lord God, it hath 
otherwise, I trust, been with me. So much grace could I 
never find before in any instructions of the Church." 
There were hundreds who might have said this of Catharine 
of Siena. What can one human being do better for another 
than this — so to tell him the truth of Christ as to win him 
from sin and weakness, and set him on the path to heaven 1 
This again, then, we have in common with Catharine— the 


338 Cathanne of Siena. 

wonderful power with which God has endowed us, as social 
and sympathetic beings, to impart what we know and love, 
to pass on from hand to hand the torch we bear, be it of a 
blazing brightness or as yet but dimly burning. But first 
we must ourselves possess the light. 

Look well, then, reader, at this poor saint, at all the 
saints, at the good and noble, the great cloud of witnesses 
who have gone before, and are going. For as they were 
and are, so you may be. But, turning from these, look 
higher still. Turn your eyes towards him who is the Light 
of the World, the Saviour, to whom I pray that he will 
bless this poor work, and make it fruitful of blessing in the 
hearts of those who are able to read the lesson of a holy 
life through all the imperfections which mar the record. 



Entitled : 




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